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Archive for July, 2011

Cancer Imagery Up-Regulates Immune Function

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Cancer Imagery Up-Regulates Immune Function After All by Belleruth Naparstek, Monday, June 27, 2011

Belleruth Naparstek

Hello again.

I’ve been looking at the research and pondering how far we’ve come from those early days when we were first learning about guided imagery as a possible, bona fide addition to the cancer treatment toolkit.  

Back in the 80’s when guided imagery was first getting promoted by Bernie Siegel, Stephanie & Carl Simonton, Jeanne Achterberg and Frank Lawlis, there was a lot of excitement about its potential.  Early pilot studies showed a lot of promise (early studies often do – perhaps because of the excitement the investigators feel about their intervention), and there was a lot of talk about how ‘visualization’ could wipe out cancer cells.  People were encouraged to imagine Pac-Men, a popular video game at the time, eating up cancer cells, before, during and after chemotherapy.

In those days, the imagery was strictly visual – the other senses were not called into play – and that made it hard for the half of the population that’s not especially well wired for visual memory or fantasy.  We’ve since learned that all the senses need to be brought to bear, and that perhaps the most potent and impactful sense is the kinesthetic one – imagining the feel of things inside the body. We also figured out that for most people, when the imagery has a strong emotional flavor to it, it gets potentiated to a greater extent and has more impact. 

The research at that time showed that the proponents of visualization were over-promising.  These early visualizations helped cancer patients with motivation, coping, anxiety and the side effects of chemotherapy and other medical procedures  but didn’t make a dent on the progress of the cancer itself.  Investigators reluctantly backed off from their ambitious early claims and stuck with side-effects and coping benefits.