Guided Imagery and Stress Reduction
A study from Beth Israel Deaconess in New York, presented at the San Antonio meeting, suggested that guided imagery can reduce stress and anxiety in women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. On the one hand, this seems pretty self-evident, but it is always good to have data to support what we instinctively know. My experience has been that any kind of meditation, relaxation, or imagery is helpful in many difficult medical situations. Scans, procedures, needle-sticks, radiation therapy are among the moments that most lend themselves to this intervention. It can be harder to meditate for the length of time required for chemotherapy (although can be helpful there, too), but this is a really good tool for shorter stressful experiences.
There are many ways to practice meditation and relaxation. Of course, there are special tapes to guide you, and there are courses or books or conversations with practitioners that may be helpful. Many women find that it is easier and just as good to listen to music or to actively try to relax muscle groups (head to toe or toe to head) while repeating a single word aloud or to themselves. The idea is just to concentrate on something other than what is happening and to comfort yourself with any self-soothing techniques that may work.
Here is a summary of the study from Curetoday.com:
Guided Imagery Reduces Stress and
Anxiety in Patients Undergoing
BY MELISSA WEBER
Guided imagery decreased stress and relieved anxiety in patients who used the technique before and after radiation therapy for breast cancer, according to a study presented during a poster session at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Patients in the study, conducted at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York,
learned how to focus on a pattern of breathing and gradually relax their muscles.
Once relaxed, patients visualized themselves in a comfortable and safe place. During a state of full relaxation, patients focused on specific characteristics about that place to sustain a sense of strength and calm. The 68 participants used guided imagery before each daily radiation treatment and at home, and were given a CD to help them practice and a diary to track their use of the technique.
As a scientific measurement of the impact of guided imagery on the body,
researchers looked at pulse rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate—all of which decreased after the use of guided imagery—and skin temperature, which increased following guided imagery. In addition to the body's positive response, patients expressed high levels of satisfaction with this integrative method.
Patients can learn more about guided imagery from the American Cancer
Society and can find a qualified guided imagery practitioner through the Academy for Guided Imagery.
This article is a part of CURE's 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium
coverage. To read more articles from SABCS 2009, visit sabcs2009.curetoday.com.