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This article was first published in March 2005 Edition of the Institute for Complementary Medicine Online Journal. It is reproduced here by permission of both the author and the Editor of the ICM Online Journal and can also be found on the ICM Online Journal's website at

Modern mind technologies and their role in cancer care

Gregory Antão

Posted April 2005


Some very effective 'Mind tools" have been evolved, using modern psychological techniques, to deal with stress, "anger management" and negative mental or emotional states. These may be applied very effectively in improving the mental and even physiological states of sufferers of chronic conditions such as cancer, AIDS and some other long-term or terminal illnesses.

Hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) are two such, highly effective Mind Technologies - which I use synergistically and term this combination HypnosNLP TM. Here I describe how these and other allied techniques can be used to improve the "Life Quality" of cancer victims and I draw upon the work and case studies of some very prominent exponents in this field, such as the Drs Simonton, Dr Bernie Siegel, Dr Lawrence LeShan, Dr Herbert Benson and others.

To avoid repetition, readers should refer to Gregory Ant‹o's two previous articles1,2 for more detailed explanations of hypnosis and NLP, which can be found in the ICM journal articles' archive.


Today in the UK cancer is part of the grim reality of modern life. In fact "more than one in three people will be diagnosed with a cancer in their lifetime and one in four will die from cancer".3 Very grim statistics indeed.

One question of particular relevance to this article can be phrased thus: "Are there particular traits or predicates that may predispose someone to developing cancer?"

American Dr Douglas Brodie, MD, who specialises in the treatment of cancer patients using alternative therapies, can perhaps answer this question. Dr Brodie has identified what he calls a 'Cancer Personality'.

Indeed, Dr Brodie credits the ancient Greek physician Galen as being one of the earliest to have recognised the connection between victims of breast cancer and their tendency to being of a melancholic disposition.

Nonetheless, Dr Brodie suggests that some or all of the following seven factors (suitably paraphrased) may be used to categorize a 'Cancer Personality'4

1. Dutiful, responsible, very conscientious, caring, hard-working persons – usually of above-average intelligence.

2. Persons demonstrating strong tendencies of shouldering "other people's burdens", perhaps "worrying for others" and also taking on more than their fair share of obligations.

3. Persons who tend to be "people pleasers" – basically very needy of approval from others. Perhaps "having a deep-seated need to make others happy"

Gregory Antão

Is a licensed practitioner of NLP, a certified hypnotherapist, a member of the British Institute of Hypnotherapy, and also a qualified engineer

He studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming under its co-founder Richard Bandler and was trained in hypnosis in the USA.

Gregory uses his own particular combination, which he terms HypnosNLP TM , at his practices in London and Weybridge, Surrey

The author can be contacted by emailing

Or can be telephoned on
0870 1997834

4. Detached personalities: in early life characterised by a "lack of closeness with one or both parents". In some cases, later on in life, a "lack of closeness with spouses" or other significant personalities such as siblings and children, who ordinarily would be more strongly connected.

5. Internalised or suppressed personalities: Internalised "toxic emotions" of resentment or hostility and anger or rage. The lack of capacity to externalise or naturally express or give vent to these negative feelings and emotions.

6. Over-stressed personalities: Exhibiting adverse reactions to everyday stresses. Often an inability to cope effectively with these stresses and strains. It has been noticed that in many cases the cancer diagnosis is usually preceded by a pivotal traumatic event, by about two years or so. This precipitates a "crash or meltdown" type scenario presiding over years of emotional suppression.

7. "Childhood conflict driven"-based personalities: Demonstrating an inability to recognise or cope with deep-rooted emotional traumas and conflicts, usually originating in childhood.

From the above, it can be deduced that there is a strong psychological component to the potential susceptibility of a person to succumb to diseases, such as cancer, and that this tendency may perhaps be reduced by applying some modern mind technologies. There have been many proponents of this rationale.


One of the most commonly recognised types of "Mind Medicine" is the very well-known "Placebo Effect". This implies that under some conditions – usually quite difficult to identify – the mind can almost miraculously heal the body. This placebo effect is a precursor to one of the newer fields of mind medicine called "Psychoneuroimmunology" (PNI). This is founded on research that now recognises that our immune systems are interlinked with the thoughts that originate in our minds. Jon Barron, in his widely acclaimed book, Lessons from the Miracle Doctors,5 describes the various mechanisms that come into play in this mind-body interaction. Due to space limitations, we can only touch on a few of them here and cannot examine these in the considerable detail that they perhaps merit.

The link between the effects of stress, such as adrenaline release and the decrease in the availability of antibodies, as well as the reduction in both the number and potency of lymphocytes is affirmed. Also addressed is the direct connection between the immune system organs – the spleen, the thymus gland, bone marrow and the lymph nodes – and how the emotional states of depression and elevated stress can adversely affect immune efficacy. Most importantly, he describes how the two-way neuropeptide communication links between the brain and body cells and organs can be affected by different"mind states". Happy and positive mind states produce neuropeptides that strengthen immune response but, unfortunately, the converse is also true. 5

Underpinning the above research there has been a "raft of experience", observation and research by several pioneers in this field, pioneers such as the Simontons, Bernie Siegel MD, Dr Lawrence LeShan, Dr Herbert Benson, Ader, Burnett et al, to name just a few. This has been independently reviewed by the US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, in their report "Unconventional Cancer Treatments,OTA-H-405, in Chapter 2. Behavioral and Psychological Approaches".6

The importance of the mental state of a cancer patient cannot be underestimated. In his highly informative eBook, A Consultant's Report – Guide to Finding the Best Alternative Cancer Therapies, Doctors, Clinics and Hospitals, which is a highly focused distillation of very relevant and up-to-the-minute information, the author, Arthur C. Brown, emphasises that the "three little-considered aspects of cancer therapy: the patient's attitude toward alternative therapies, the patient's attitude toward getting well at all, and the emotional or mental states which may be at the root of their cancer" are indeed key factors.

He further continues to emphasise: "The best alternative clinics and hospitals address these issues, believing negative mindsets or emotional states can not only cause the disease, but also prevent any hope of recovery."7

Mind Therapies

Some of the very simplest mind therapies to apply are those such as "Affirmation", "Meditation" and "Visualisation". A short description for each of these and some other effective therapies follows:


The French psychotherapist Emile Coue's auto-suggestive mantra of "Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better" is well-known. The underlying rationale here is the seeding of the Unconscious mind with positive suggestions, which are then subsequently implemented. The constant repetition of a statement or mantra, describing the desired outcome is intended to seep through the protective critical filter that is the Conscious mind and reach the Unconscious. The Unconscious mind is very powerful but uncritical and receptive to such external stimuli.

Affirmations made by the subject can be deemed to be "Autosuggestions". Indeed, affirmations made by parties other than the subject or patient in question can also be made. It has been reported in a study "that patients undergoing abdominal hysterectomy used 23 per cent., less pain medication (compared to a control group) if "positive Ôhealing statements" were made by the operating team during the procedure".8 This form of affirmation made by external parties may be called "suggestion". This technique of programming the Unconscious mind is more directly utilised in the process of hypnosis (see below).


Meditation may be described as any mental activity that lifts the mind's attention beyond normal thought. It may consist of the constant repetition of a phrase, word or mantra, the use of guided imagery, controlled breathing, passive observation of mind or biological states or a selective combination of any or all of these components. All forms of meditation may be characterised by a state, where the absence or near absence of emotional experience and logical thought prevails.

The work of an Australian psychiatrist, the late Ainslie Meares, in relation to "meditation directed against tumours", came to public notice during the '70s and early '80s. Meares employed a form of meditation whose object was to produce a "profound stillness of mind" – a state characterised as being one of 'simplicity and naturalness'.

This mind state was said to give cancer patients an experience that seemed to have "a profound and prolonged reduction" in their levels of anxiety and a "nonverbal understanding of life and death".

Meares believed that these bouts of intensive meditation "enabled the immune system to function more effectively by inducing changes in blood supply to particular parts of the body and in endocrine function and neural activity".6

Having treated 73 patients with "advanced cancer", each of whom had attended at least 20 of his sessions of this form of intensive meditation, Meares believed that his treatment significantly "reduced anxiety, depression, discomfort, and pain" in about 50 percent of his patients. He also affirmed that tumour regression, as a result of the "intensive meditation", was experienced by at least 10 percent of the "advanced cancer patients" he had treated. Case reports were also published that suggested regression of the cancer – in the absence of conventional treatments – was attributable to the intensive meditation undertaken by the patients involved.6

The foregoing illustrates that the practice of this form of meditation can certainly be of considerable benefit to cancer sufferers. Hopefully, further confirmatory studies will help to make more widespread the acceptance and performance of this form of therapy.

Dr Ainslie Meares
Intensive meditation may influence immune system


Visualisation and guided imagery are mind tools or techniques for constructing representations or "mental icons" of desired outcomes or situations – with the objective of "actualising" these scenarios or objectives. These techniques can be used to overcome fears and negative beliefs by replacing them mentally and visually by their positive and empowering equivalents.

A spectrum of psychological techniques, based around visualisation and guided imagery, were used extensively by the Simontons in the 1970s in some ground-breaking work. Dr Carl Simonton, a radiation oncologist, and his then wife Dr Stephanie Simonton-Atchley, a psychotherapist, worked with cancer patients at the Cancer Counseling and Research Center in Dallas, Texas. They adopted a holistic approach to cancer treatment, which included components that were targeted on the restoration of the physical, mental, and emotional balance so that the whole person returns to health.6

The underlying rationale of the adopted therapeutic approach was theoretically based on aspects relating to the significance of personality characteristics and other relevant psychological parameters to the causation and progression of the cancer. The approaches used were considered to be an adjunct to the prevailing conventional treatment regime. The objectives were to enhance the patients' motivation toward achieving better health and to inculcate the capacity for 'making creative changes' in other areas of patients' lives.6

The basic methodologies used were based on relaxation and guided imagery using "active imagination". For instance, lymphocytes were imagined as being PAC men (from an electronic game of the time) "gobbling up" the aberrant cancer cells. Various such mental representations were developed around the common theme of strengthened immunity, enhanced health and the routing and disposal of the rogue cells. There were some subsequent reports from the Simontons claiming an enhanced life expectancy of about 150-200 percent over "nationally expected norms" for control groups of cancer sufferers who had only employed conventional medical interventions.

From another, separate study unassociated with the Simontons "patients undergoing gallbladder surgery showed considerably less anxiety and lower post-surgical levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they'd practiced relaxation and guided visualization techniques."8

The various reports and studies show promising results. However, some more confirmatory results from rigorously conducted, well-controlled, contemporary studies are needed to improve peer and public acceptance.

Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is a well recognised, but little understood, phenomenon in medical and lay circles. The mechanism whereby a set of beliefs about the supposed efficacy of a "therapeutic agent" actually sets in train the desired response or outcome in a given patient seems quite incredible. The variability in patient response to the agent is also not fully understood. Despite this, currently some US pharmaceutical companies are, quite cynically, trying to patent and/or gain exclusive FDA approval for "approved placebos" – approval indeed, for what is, basically, just an innocuous "sugar pill" strains credulity!

Psychologist Bruno Klopfer gives a delightfully true account of "placebo power" describing how a cancer patient, 'Mr Wright', suffering from "extremely advanced lymphosarcoma", is said to have responded to treatment with an experimental wonder drug called Krebiozen. Mr Wright had pleaded to be given the then still experimental drug, believing claims that the drug was almost miraculous in its efficacy. He thus responded extremely well to treatment with Krebiozen – the "orange-sized tumours" all over his body shrinking to about half their previous size. He left the hospital to lead a full life outside for about a couple of months.

Mr Wright then read a newspaper account of how the wonder drug Krebiozen was deemed to be an absolute failure. His tumours returned within just a few days and the patient was again hospitalised. This situation made Dr Klopfer decide to experiment with the placebo effect. He told the patient that the reported tests were performed with some old and defective stocks of Krebiozen and that the newest tests performed with "super Krebiozen" had again yielded the expected, miraculous results. He then proceeded to give Mr Wright a course of injections of "pure water". Again he responded to the "treatment" magnificently. His "second recovery was even faster" and he returned to normality.9

Belief can, indeed, move mountains – or certainly at least removed Mr Wright's tumours.


The American Dr Lawrence LeShan is credited with developing a special psychotherapeutic approach to cancer treatment. In his own book, Turning Point (see 6), his approach is described as a "psychotherapeutic process used to identify the creative potential and self-healing ability of each patient".

His particular method is described as a process of self-examination and growth that delves deeply into the patient's past in order to "analyse the blocks that keep the patient from being able to live out his or her true nature".

Renouncing the traditional Freudian methods, his own highly person-centered approach focuses on the individual's unique aspects as he attempts to develop "the perception and the expression of the individual's special song to sing in life" and "the cause of his or her loss of contact with enthusiasm and joy". 6

LeShan credits the efficacy of his psychotherapeutic approach with having significantly benefited some of his cancer patients, who have experienced "tumor regression" and increased longevity. He further explains that nearly half of his "terminal" or "hopeless" patients have undergone "long-term remission" and were still alive at that time. Other patients experienced enhanced longevity, far in excess of expected medical norms. Also, nearly all patients, even the terminal ones, experienced an improvement in emotional "Life Quality".

LeShan speculated that his type of psychotherapy may induce positive changes in patients' immune functional response. He is further cited as stating that his approaches are sometimes even "sufficient to halt or reverse the direction of growth of a serious neoplasm".6

Dr Lawrence LeShan
Renounced traditional Freudian methods


The "Exceptional Cancer Patient" programme was formulated by Dr Bernie Siegel.

This was based on small groups of eight to 12 participants, scheduled to meet about once a week for sessions lasting about an hour and a half. Sessions were based on the use of meditation, visualisation and mental imagery – using drawings and dreams, and also included discussions of patients' problems.6 This basically drew upon some of the therapeutic modalities discussed above.

Unfortunately, statistical studies of the programme were not conclusive due to variability in "control for the lag period among ECaP participants from the time of diagnosis to the time of ECaP entry, a period that reportedly ranged from less than one month to 10 years",6 and further research may be needed to validate or confirm perceptions of efficacy of this excellent program.


Hypnosis is a mind technology that is considered to be quite mainstream today. However, it does merit a brief explanation. (Readers should refer to author's previous articles for more detailed discussion1,2.) The word Hypnosis is derived from the Greek word, "Hypnos", for sleep. This is not a strictly accurate description of the hypnotic state because unlike sleep – a state of general "unconsciousness" – hypnosis may be described as a state of altered consciousness, indeed a state of "heightened consciousness" or even "enhanced awareness". You do not lose your mental control.

Hypnosis allows a skilled practitioner to directly access and communicate with the "Unconscious Mind". The Conscious Mind acts as a "critical filter" for any external information before it reaches your powerful, but trusting, "Unconscious Mind". What this means is that the Conscious Mind can sometimes work against you by blocking out some positive suggestions intended for the Unconscious. The Conscious Mind is very logical and highly analytical – it questions the validity or truth of any information presented to it. The Unconscious Mind is very literal and un--analytical – it accepts as being "true" any information that is presented to it and acts on the stimulus.

Hypnosis allows us to work in an expanded frame of awareness. This frame can be used to incorporate any or all of the above-mentioned therapeutic strategies, in a fairly dynamic context. It can be used to change perceptions, beliefs and attitudes, enhance visualisation or "sensorisation" of positive outcomes, stimulate immune response, control pain and so much more.

Reports of a recent study performed in the UK10 in which childhood cancer patients under hypnosis were observed to have "suffered less pain" than a control group who had received counseling in lieu of the hypnosis.

Dr Christina Liossi, coordinator of the Pain Research Unit at the University of Wales in Swansea, was reported to have suggested there was "even tentative evidence that hypnosis prolonged the lives of cancer patients".10 F urthermore, there is also some other "preliminary evidence" that suggests "some psychological or behavioral interventions, such as hypnosis and relaxation, can alter immune function in healthy individuals".6

Dr Christina LiossiTentative evidence hypnosis prolongs cancer patients' lives

Hypnosis can also be utilised to manage the symptoms of cancer, as reported by Dr Gerard Sunnen, MD.10 He mentions that how a stockbroker, with an established diagnosis of carcinoma of the colon, was referred by his oncologist for hypnotic treatment for his persistent pelvic pain, due to a lesion localised on his pelvic bone. The patient was able to achieve almost complete freedom from the pain for periods of up to an hour or more, depending upon his emotional state. The report continues: "The relief he obtained was incontrovertible. Sometimes he could banish the pain completely and could walk comfortably for an hour or so. At other times, especially when his mood was low, he could gain only partial relief. He felt significantly more relaxed, reported more energy, and clearly enjoyed his heightened capacity for pain-free activity." 10

This case demonstrates that hypnosis offers some considerable benefits in several aspects of cancer care. More definitive, confirmatory studies are needed to validate further the efficacy of this broad-ranging and powerful therapeutic modality.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro Linguistic Programming is a form of "near waking state" hypnosis. It is used to optimise performance, overcome traumas and also in the cure of fears and phobias and much more.

We are the sum total of all our life experiences. We store these experiences as internal sensory representations, which I shall call IntReps. These IntReps are essentially made up of mental pictures, sounds, feelings, smells and even tastes. Visually biased people have more mental pictures than the other sensory aspects. Similarly, auditory people have more mental sounds than the other sensory aspects, and so on. In NLP we can "adjust" these IntReps, tweaking them to make them more powerful if they are positively biased, or to make them weaker if they are negatively biased – such as in cases of trauma.

Now, NLP also helps us to model "excellence" or good behaviours. If you see a good public speaker perform, for instance, you emulate what they do, in order to replicate their behaviour. The same is the case with a good golfer or tennis player. To do this one can "mentally model" component behavioural "paradigms of excellence". This allows us to put together a cocktail of recognised "winning strategies" and rehearse them mentally, and then invoke them by firing off an "anchor".

Funnily enough, the brain doesn't seem to know the difference between actually doing something and simply just thinking about doing something. So, doing a mental rehearsal can be very valuable. This is where both hypnosis and NLP really come into their own. A cocktail of positive, empowering "winning strategies" can be set up as a complex IntRep and strongly "anchored" and invoked in given situations. This complex IntRep must be strongly "sensorised", ie. each of the component, associated senses must be experienced strongly mentally. This creates a mental icon.

This, we can surmise, lends itself very well to the adoption of "excellent behaviours" and positive, empowering attitudes – basically, just what is needed for the well-being of the cancer patient. The positive attitudes, expectations and mindsets required to facilitate the desired positive outcomes can thus be modeled, adopted and applied for best effect by cancer sufferers.

The effects due to emotional states or mood and the attitudes to life on immune (lymphocyte) response cannot be underestimated. NLP offers some powerful techniques for healing.9


HypnosNLPTM is my own particular implementation of Hypnosis and NLP. I term it the "synergistic utilisation of NLP in an hypnotic context" (see my previous articles for a more detailed discussion1,2). Sometimes it is not entirely straightforward for clients to operate on their IntReps effectively in the near normal, waking consciousness state – that is commonly used in most NLP interventions. With the HypnosNLPTM intervention maximum benefits can be obtained by actually tweaking IntReps, manipulating "Timelines" and setting up or collapsing "anchors", whilst in a light to moderately deep, hypnotic trance state.

It is also thus possible to identify and negate negative precipitating IntRep(s), induce or create a replacement positive resource state IntRep – suitably intensified in a hypnotic context. This positive resource state may then be accessed at any time after the therapeutic session is over, by using a post-hypnotic trigger or anchor. This trigger may be "fired" by using a combination of mental trigger words and a sequence of breaths, for instance. This can then elicit the newly created positive state – on demand or even automatically.

Using the reframing strategies of NLP in a hypnotic context allows us to perform some powerful operations such as "perception and attitude change". For example, one of my own patients had suffered two bouts of breast cancer. The negative psychological effects of the chemotherapy on her mind state could not be understated. She dreaded undergoing the therapy even though she had a cognitive awareness of its potential to prolong her life. By changing her perspective using dynamic visualisation in hypnosis and reframing the "chemo session" in a positive, healing light, she managed even, at times, to look forward to these healing "chemo sessions".

This case demonstrates that using both hypnotic and NLP techniques synergistically can really maximise the beneficial effects of the therapies in managing and caring for sufferers of chronic illnesses such as cancer.


As described above, we are very susceptible to our own emotional states and our mental environment. In fact these factors can be predictors of susceptibility to illnesses such as cancer with an estimated accuracy of about 95 percent,9 based on two variables:

a.        Loss of the "Will to live" – perhaps due to the loss of a close one or a relationship breakdown, and

b.        Internalised feelings of hostility or aggression.

These are two aspects of the Cancer Personality profile described by Dr Brodie in the Introduction above. Dr Brodie has also categorised a profile of cancer patients who respond very positively to the therapeutic interventions described above in a list of "Success Factors".4 These are set out as follows, condensed or paraphrased for brevity:

1. Flexibility – the ability or willingness to make positive changes by adopting a less stressful or "obligation-driven" lifestyle.

2. To acknowledge a personal, spiritual dimension and to harmonize with the benevolent objectives of a God or Supreme Spiritual Being.

3. To take responsibility for one's own health and wellness and to be willing to make desirable positive changes to diet and habits as necessary.

4. To be positive and "Un-resigned to Fate" in the face of an adverse diagnosis of cancer. To fight back using all available means and tools, both conventional and alternative.

5. Accepting of responsibility for their own behaviour that may have precipitated their illnesses. Being willing to undergo behavioural self-analysis and to make corrective modifications to behaviour as necessary.

6. To release all toxic emotions such as anger, resentment, aggression and hostility. To replace these by positive emotions such as love, benevolence, forgiveness, faith, hope and trust.

7. To overcome all learned restraints and inhibitions, and to achieve desirable positive states such as guiltless sexual gratification and fulfillment.

An abundance of evidence and clinical experience now emphasizes that the effective use of the modern mind tools described above can really make a significant contribution to the care and management of cancer patients and other sufferers of chronic illness.


1. G Ant‹o  . Techniques for managing stress, addictions and phobias. ICM Journal, August, 2003.
2.  G Ant‹o  . Hypnosis and NLP for mind management and performance enhancement in sports and other activities. ICM Journal, July, 2004.  
3. Cancer Research UK, Statistics - Cancer Facts and Figures. From  
4. W. Douglas Brodie MD. Management of cancer. An alternative approach. From:  
5. Jon Barron, "Lessons from the Miracle Doctors" (2002), obtained as a free bonus download via the eBook, A Consultant's Report - Guide to Finding the Best Alternative Cancer Therapies, Doctors, Clinics and Hospitals, by Arthur C. Brown. From:
6. US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, "Unconventional Cancer Treatments, OTA-H-405 - Chapter 2. Behavioral and Psychological Approaches" (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, September, 1990). From:
7. Arthur C. Brown. A Consultant's Report - Guide to Finding the Best Alternative Cancer Therapies, Doctors, Clinics and Hospitals, 2005. From:  
8. Preparing for Surgery with Mind-Body Techniques. From:,1560,AR_1228,00.html  
9. Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett. Healing Cancer: NLP Meets Chi Kung, 1997. From:  
10. Paul Rincon. Hypnosis "reduces cancer pain", 2004. From:

11. Gerard V. Sunnen, MD. How hypnosis is clinically utilized to address the spectrum of cancer's physical and psychological dimensions. From:

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