How Patient Power Is Changing Breast-Cancer Care

By Barbara Brennan

The integration of energy/spiritual healing into general medicine is a slow and often arduous process. Traditional positions in the medical world can be rather inflexible and are best moved by continual education.

They will shift more, I firmly believe, as a new generation of doctors, nurses, and administrators edge toward embracing a more holistic approach to health care. Of course, already there are shining examples of acceptance and understanding in hospitals and clinics across the globe, even if growth could be faster.

What may be the primary catalyst today in altering viewpoints is something relatively new—patient power. Evidence is growing of patients’ demanding that alternative treatments be considered by the medical profession, not so much to replace existing methods, but to support them.

Something of a breakthrough —one that can be directly related to patient power—occurred in late March in the French Riviera town of Nice, where the Fifth European Breast Cancer Conference welcomed the use of complementary treatments and medicines as support for cancer patients.

The gathering of leading breast-cancer specialists from throughout Europe was told that its delegates can no longer ignore the importance of alternative treatments in view of their popularity among patients.

The conference adopted new guidelines after hearing that studies had found that up to 90 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer now turn to alternative remedies of some kind. Treatments favored by patients varied from spiritual and energy healing to yoga and aromatherapy, the specialists were told.

This may well be the first time that an international body of medical experts has not only officially endorsed but directed such action. Even the delegates who resisted this new approach were largely persuaded by the argument that, on safety grounds alone, doctors needed to know what their patients were taking or doing.

The new guidelines call for a single standard of evaluation of therapies and urge doctors to have “open and factual” discussions about their use.

This is an exciting development. The next step may be that the breast-cancer specialists entertain a presentation from representatives of “alternative” healing methods, particularly in the area of postoperative care.

No one would be better to explain this than one of their own, a European breast-reconstruction surgeon and one of many doctors who are graduates of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.

This particular surgeon normally does three energy healings on a cancer patient—one before he operates and two after. For his graduation-year paper, he carried out a survey in which patients were divided into two groups —those who received healings and those who did not.

The findings showed a considerable difference between the two groups in the relationship these patients have with their newly constructed breasts.

Many of the women who did not receive healings said the new breast felt heavy, like something hanging on their chest, while those in the other group (on whom he did the surgery) said they could all feel the breast, that it felt sexual, and that it felt like their breast to the touch. So for self-esteem and confidence alone, the healings appear to have had a tremendous effect.

In addition, the patients who received healings needed much less post-op pain medication, if any. That and faster recovery time were also regular features of pilot studies by other doctor graduates.

This could have major implications not just in the treatment of mastectomy patients but in all postoperative care. Of course, findings such as these are not entirely new. They have been known among healers for a few years but have had virtually no circulation in the medical world.

One of the issues, as I have said before, is the absence of funding for large-scale research. Studies by individuals and among small groups, while highly relevant, go unrecognized by the medical profession.

The new guidelines set by the European breast-cancer conference may help to change all that. If the specialists follow the directive for open discussion, the results of their studies can only be positive. Add the patient-power factor, and we may be seeing the start of a new dawn.