Phase II randomized controlled trial of hypnosis versus progressive muscle relaxation for body image after breast or gynecological cancer

Body image is often negatively affected following breast cancer treatment.  Research suggests that body image is most negatively impacted in women who have undergone a bilateral mastectomy, although decreases are noted across all treatment types.  A November 2019 study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment looked to compare the benefits of hypnosis and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) as possible treatment tools at for poor body image following breast and gynecological cancer treatment.  The study randomized 87 women into one of two treatment groups.  Both the hypnosis group and the PMR group met with a trained professional three times over the six-week period.  Between individual sessions, participants listened to a 15 to 25 minute audio recording at home of either hypnosis or PMR at least three times per week.  A variety of assessment measures were used at baseline to determine scores for body image, sexual function, and mood.

After the six-week intervention, the researchers found that both groups showed significant improvements in their baseline measurements in all domains.  Although the differences between the treatment groups were not statistically significant, the PMR improved slightly more in measurements of positive mood while the hypnosis group had larger improvements in measures related to sexual function.  Overall, 42% of participants in the hypnosis group and 36% in the PMR group reported “moderate” to “very much” improvement in body image at the completion of the intervention.  These scores suggest that stress relieving interventions that promote reconnecting to one’s body through the body-mind connection such as hypnosis and PMR may be effective tools for addressing lowered body image after breast cancer treatment.

Barton, Debra L., et al. “Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial of Hypnosis versus Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Body Image after Breast or Gynecologic Cancer.” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, vol. 178, no. 2, 2019, pp. 357–365., doi:10.1007/s10549-019-05395-6.