The Effect of Hypnosis on the Intensity of Pain and Anxiety in Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review of Controlled Experimental Trials

Cancer Invest. 2022 Mar;40(3):235-253. doi: 10.1080/07357907.2021.1998520. Epub 2021 Nov 26.


Background: Pain is a common symptom in cancer patients. Hypnosis is considered one of the most recognized non-pharmacological techniques in pain management. In oncology, this technique can be used as a complementary treatment to reduce the level of pain and anxiety. The objective of this study is to systematically review and evaluate controlled clinical trials (CCTs) examining the effect of hypnosis on the intensity of pain, and anxiety in cancer patients.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted according to the recommendations of the "Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses" (PRISMA). The Cochrane systematic review database, the abstract databases, Scopus, PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane Library have been systematically reviewed from 2005 to 2018.

Results: Eleven CCT with a total of 1182 participants met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review. The participants were mainly women (n = 968). Their average age alternates between 48 and 58 years. Perceived pain was measured primarily by visual analog scale (VAS)/numerical pain rating scale (NPRS), which showed that anxiety was measured by Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS). Hypnosis-related anxiety and pain decreased significantly with respect to usual treatment.

Conclusions: Evidence suggests promising results of hypnosis on the management of pain, and anxiety levels in the vast majority of cancer patients. Therefore, because of the exploratory design and high risk of bias, the effectiveness of hypnosis or hypnotherapy in reducing pain and anxiety levels remains unclear. There is a need for more rigorous randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Keywords: Anxiety; cancer; hypnosis; pain; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cancer Pain / therapy*
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement*