Most cancer patients are only familiar with the mainstream medical treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, alternative medicine and remedies such as exercise, massage, and music therapy can also help manage and treat some cancer symptoms. Visualization and imagery therapies are popular and usually reliable alternative remedies for managing and treating cancer.
Here is a comprehensive guide on how visualization and imagery cancer therapies work and their potential effects and benefits against cancer. This guide also includes a brief overview of two reliable visualization exercisesfor cancer healing that anyone can perform.
How Does Visualization Help Manage & Treat Cancer?
Salivating when you think about your favorite food is a natural and common phenomenon. The thought of enjoying a delicious meal or snack stimulates neurotransmitters that tell your brain to get ready to eat. To this end, the brain immediately triggers the production and secretion of extra saliva (which helps with chewing and digestion) in preparation for eating.
Imagery and visualization are psychological concepts, but hunger is a physiological process. Salivating at the thought of food is one of many examples of the psychological and physiological effects of imagery and visualization.
Defining Visualization & Imagery Therapies
Visualization and imagery therapies for managing and treating cancer are based on the concept that the body and mind are intricately linked, and one can affect the other. There is an underlying belief that adopting a positive attitude and thinking positive thoughts can help boost the body’s natural immune system and healing properties to fight cancer – or, at the very least, some of its symptoms.
How Visualization & Imagery Therapies Work
Imagination and mental pictures are the basis of visualization and imagery therapies. The process entails imagining something specific in your mind and immersing yourself in the experience so that you can see, hear, smell, and even taste the mental pictures.
The Simonton method is the most common and popular visualization therapy recommended as an alternative cancer remedy. The method entails imagining the character from the popular videogame Pac-Man eating and destroying cancer cells. Notably, many oncologists have been recommending this technique since the 1970s.
Types of Visualization & Imagery Therapy Techniques for Cancer
Your imagination is the central aspect of visualization therapy, and you can base your visualization therapy sessions on any subject or concept. However, all visualization and imagery therapies are categorized into two types:
Palming visualization therapies involve covering your eyes with your palms and imagining different colors. This technique is based on the correlation between colors and emotions. For example, red is associated with danger, while white is associated with peace.
This technique entails visualizing a color that you associate with stress and then suddenly switching to one that you associate with happiness. Besides manipulating your emotions, this technique also helps erase the mind of all negative thoughts related to cancer and all other stressors.
#2 Guided Imagery (GI)
Guided Imagery (GI) is a bit more complex than palming as it involves visualizing detailed, life-like imaginations. The Simonton method is the most popular example of GI.
However, your imagination doesn’t have to be limited to a customized version of the Pac-Man game – you can visualize almost anything positive that your imagination may conjure. For example, you can imagine yourself winning a race against menacing cancer cells or playing real-life whack-a-mole with your cancerous tumors.
The Visualization Therapy Process
Visualization and mental imagery therapy techniques are very versatile and flexible – essentially, the therapy is only limited by your imagination. Cancer patients can engage in these therapies alone in a private setting or at an immunity therapy center under the guidance of a professional therapist.
DIY Visualization Therapy
A DIY approach to visualization therapy requires using a video or audio recording recommending various visualization exercises. Therapists also recommend finding a quiet, private space without any distractions. The recording will guide you on what to do and think, and all you have to do is let go of everything else in your mind and immerse yourself in the imagination.
Professional Visualization Therapy
A guided imagery therapy session under the guidance of a professional therapist usually happens in a clinical setting. The therapist usually does all the talking, and all you have to do is follow their cues with your imagination.
Usually, your therapist will introduce you to a range of visualization exercises or imagery techniques and ask you to choose your preferred one. It is advisable to choose the most exciting option to easily immerse yourself in the imagination. The therapist will then ask you to stay comfortable (you can sit or lie down) and close your eyes before starting the exercise. They will then ask you to imagine various sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and other senses and experiences.
The clinical setting is usually characterized by an overall relaxing atmosphere. For example, many therapists usually use warm lighting and play relaxing music in the background to help the cancer patient relax. It is also worth noting that your therapist may recommend breathing techniques to help you’re your mind and relax your muscles. These sessions usually last for between 20 and 30 minutes.
Benefits of Visualization & Imagery for Managing & Treating Cancer
Visualization and mental imagery therapies have many potential benefits for cancer patients. Here is an overview of visualization therapy’s most notable effects and benefits against cancer. It is worth noting that these benefits are based on scientific findings that aren’t necessarily linked to cancer. They include:
Relieving Stress & Anxiety
Cancer is a scary condition, and a positive diagnosis usually triggers stress and anxiety in many cancer patients. Stress usually comes from negative thoughts about how the condition will limit their overall quality of life, including their life expectancy. Most notably, many patients fear that their condition may defy treatment, and the thought of leaving loved ones behind can be overwhelmingly sad.
Visualization therapy is designed to distract cancer patients from negative thoughts about their condition and other stressors. This momentary disruption helps alleviate patients’ stress and anxiety, albeit temporarily.
Scientific Research & Proof
Stress triggers the production and release of more cortisol, some of which is excreted with saliva. A recent study of 111 teenagers struggling with stress and anxiety revealed that guided imagery in a group help alleviate stress. Testing the participants’ saliva for cortisol levels before, during, and after the study proved this finding. Visualization therapy induces the same effects in cancer patients.
Stress and anxiety caused by negative thoughts about your cancer condition can easily and quickly turn into depression. Fortunately, visualization therapy can help in coping with a diagnosis and works against depression in the same way it helps relieve stress and anxiety.
Scientific Research & Proof
People undergoing hemodialysis often experience extreme stress and anxiety. A study of 80 participants undergoing hemodialysis concluded that those who received guided imagery therapy experienced lower stress and anxiety levels. The effects are similar for cancer patients.
Distracting from Pain
Most types of cancer cause pain ranging in intensity from mild to excruciating. Pain, like hunger, is partly psychological and physical. To this end, the pain feels more intense when you focus your mind on it.
Visualization therapy involves imagining positive experiences characterized by appealing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and other settings. These imaginations help distract the mind from physical pain, making it feel less intense.
Scientific Research & Proof
Rheumatoid conditions such as arthritis are characterized by mild, moderate, or extreme pain in the joints and other body parts. Several studies involving patients of arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases (AORD) reveal that guided imagery helped them suppress their pain.
Improving Quality of Sleep
Stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and other cancer symptoms can make it difficult to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, visualization therapy helps manage and alleviate these symptoms, relaxing the mind and making it easier to fall asleep.
Scientific Research & Proof
Patients admitted to progressive care units for chronic conditions such as cancer and stroke often have difficulty sleeping. A recent study involving patients diagnosed with various diseases (including cancer) showed that regular guided imagery therapy sessions lasting at least 30 minutes helped improve their overall sleep quality.
Improving Lifestyle & Outlook
Visualization therapy is founded on optimism and positive thoughts, which can help turn cancer patients’ outlook on life from gloomy to sunny. For example, imagining yourself destroying cancer cells in an epic battle can help you believe that you will indeed beat it, ushering in thoughts of a healthy and eventful future as a cancer survivor.
Imagery therapy can also help you stop unhealthy habits and adopt an overall healthy lifestyle. Similarly, it can help patients weary of chemotherapy and other treatments not to give up, thus increasing their chances of beating the condition.
Scientific Research & Proof
Smoking is one of the causes of and risk factors for developing cancer. A recent study involving smokers trying to quit this unhealthy habit revealed that guided imagery helped some of them quit their addiction. Interestingly, many hotlines dedicated to helping smokers quit smoking also employ guided imagery exercises.
Visualization therapy is a simple, non-invasive, and usually effective alternative treatment option for di cancer. Immunity Therapy Center is a leading practitioner of alternative treatments for cancer including prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Our solutions are backed by extensive scientific research, and we work with highly trained and talented professional therapists. Get in touch today to learn more about our solutions and how we can help.
Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo
Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.
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- Effects of Group-delivered Stress-reduction Guided Imagery on Salivary Cortisol, Salivary Amylase, and Stress Mood in Urban, Predominantly Latino Adolescents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8874194/
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- Beneficial Effects of Guided Imagery or Clinical Massage on the Status of Patients in a Progressive Care Unit. https://aacnjournals.org/ccnonline/article-abstract/37/1/62/3660/Beneficial-Effects-of-Guided-Imagery-or-Clinical?redirectedFrom=fulltext
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At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.