close× Call Us (401) 274-1100

Release Date: 03/10/2014

A team of researchers affiliated with the Program in Women's Oncology and Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island recently revealed study findings indicating that hypnotherapy effectively reduces hot flashes in breast cancer survivors by 80 to 85 percent.

The study – "Randomized controlled trial comparing hypnotherapy versus gabapentin for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors: A pilot study" – was recently printed in British Medical Journal Open. Shannon MacLaughlan David, MD, a fellow in Women & Infants Program in Women's Oncology at the time she conducted the study and now on the faculty at Stanford University, is the primary investigator on the study. In 2011, she was one of 25 nationwide to earn a Breast Cancer Symposium Merit Award from The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology for her work.

In the recent publication of the results of the study – which included the efforts of Jennifer S. Gass, MD, assistant director of Women & Infants Breast Health Center; Cornelius Granai III, MD, director of the Program in Women's Oncology; Sandra Salzillo of the program's social services department; and Sandra Scuncio, director of integrative care– women who received three hypnotherapy sessions reported a significant decrease in their hot flashes.

"Hot flashes are a major quality of life issue for all women going through menopause, and breast cancer survivors are often experiencing them because of the treatment we use for their cancer," Dr. David explains. "These women can't use estrogen replacement, and it's been our experience that they don't want to use another drug, so we wanted to find an alternative that was safe and effective, and that would work as well as the medications that have been tested in clinical trials. "

Hypnotherapy involves inducing a state of deep relaxation that allows the patient to suspend critical faculties and allow suggestibility. In this study, women were given three hypnotherapy sessions and taught how to use guided imagery techniques at home with an audio CD.

"This study was the first of its kind, comparing an 'alternative' therapy directly to a 'standard' medication. The study was too small to say that hypnotherapy is better than gabapentin, but I have no doubt that hypnotherapy is effective in improving the quality of life for women with hot flashes," Dr. David says. "None of the women who underwent hypnotherapy had adverse side effects, and all were very satisfied with their results."

Hypnotherapy is one of the integrative therapies offered through the Program in Women's Oncology. Cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and the public can schedule an appointment by calling (401) 274-1122, ext. 47143.

Return to News

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 9th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
Women & Infants Hospital News


Amy Blustein
Director of Marketing
800 Butler Drive
Providence, RI 02906
P: (401) 681-2822 
F: (401) 455-6676