Imagery and Cancer

Last Modified: February 11, 2011


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have heard of meditation and visualization as proven to help fight the cancer cells. Is there any truth to this and can you please explain how the visualization could possibly work? Thank you.


Carolyn Vachani RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink's Nurse Educator, responds:

There are no scientific studies to support imagery as a way to treat cancer. However, imagery has been shown to help in managing reduce stress, anxiety and depression, manage pain, lower blood pressure and ease some chemo side effects. The ACS has an article about imagery.

Fern Nibauer-Cohen, Associate Director of Strategic Marketing Services at Penn Medicine, responds:

There have been many studies on the positive effects of meditation and visualization techniques to help manage fatigue and anxiety during cancer treatment and beyond. These techniques work to help manage stress and anxiety. However, there is no documentation of actually "fighting" the cancer cells.

Kimberly Fleisher, RMT, M.S.Ed, Reiki Practitioner and Teacher at The Reiki School, responds:

Visualization, meditation, and Reiki can help engage our inner resources. I have heard many times from patients using these practices that they helped bring awareness, insight, coping skills, and feelings of peace that they didn't expect. Often it is a spontaneous result of the balancing nature of these practices.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. See the full transcript of Integrating Complementary Therapies into Your Cancer Care.