National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Self-Hypnosis Beneficial for Women Undergoing Breast Biopsy

An NCCAM-funded trial found that women who used self-hypnosis during a type of core needle breast biopsy experienced anxiety relief and reduced pain when compared with standard care.

A large core needle breast biopsy is usually an outpatient procedure that limits the use of anesthetic. Women having this procedure often experience anxiety because of the possibility of a cancer diagnosis in addition to the anxiety that patients typically experience during a medical procedure. In this randomized, controlled trial researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recruited 236 women who were randomly assigned to receive standard care, structured empathic attention from a research assistant, or guided self-hypnotic relaxation during the biopsy.

The study found that both self-hypnosis and empathic attention reduced pain and anxiety during the procedure. Self-hypnosis provided greater anxiety relief than empathic attention. Neither intervention increased procedure time or significantly increased cost. As a result, the researchers suggest that self-hypnosis appears attractive for outpatient pain management.


  • Elvira V. Lang, Kevin S. Berbaum, Salomao Faintuch, et al.. Adjunctive self-hypnotic relaxation for outpatient medical procedures: A prospective randomized trial with women undergoing large core breast biopsy.. Pain.
Publication Date: 
December 15, 2006

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