The effect of hypnotic-guided imagery on psychological well-being and immune function in patients with prior breast cancer

J Psychosom Res. 2002 Dec;53(6):1131-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(02)00409-9.


Objective: To determine the effect of hypnotic-guided imagery on immune function and psychological parameters in patients being treated for Stage I or II breast cancer.

Methods: To determine the effects of hypnotic-guided imagery on immune function and psychological parameters, the following study was undertaken. Psychological profiles, natural killer (NK) cell number and activity were measured at baseline, after the 8-week imagery training program and at the 3-month follow-up.

Results: There were significant increases in improvement in depression (P<.04) and increase in absolute number of NK cells, but these were not maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Hypnotic-guided imagery did cause some transient changes in psychological well-being and immune parameters. However, these changes were not retained after the treatment ended.

Conclusions: Many studies during the last 15 years have demonstrated interactions between the central nervous and the immune systems. While a negative effect of stress on immune responses has been demonstrated, there have also been published reports that psychological treatments can positively alter the immune system. However, given the complexities of immune system kinetics, the transient nature of any psychological effect and the insensitivity of immune assays, our study indicates that there is a role for hypnotic-guided imagery as an adjuvant therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life