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Biofeedback for Cancer Symptoms

What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a method used to improve health by controlling certain body processes that normally happen involuntarily. People use devices that guide them to consciously regulate these body processes. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health groups biofeedback with other relaxation methods or body-mind therapies, such as hypnosis, meditation, and prayer.

Can biofeedback help people with cancer?

Biofeedback has been shown to help people reduce the severity and occurrence of symptoms like headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. But it has not been shown to affect cancer cells.

How does biofeedback work?

During biofeedback, a person is monitored with electrodes. These electrodes are connected to electronic equipment that measures breathing, perspiration, skin temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeat. The results are displayed on a computer screen. Specific procedures or devices are used to measure each body change, including:

  • Electromyogram. This measures nerve and muscle function.

  • Electrodermal activity. This measures changes in perspiration rate.

  • Finger pulse devices. These can measure blood pressure, oxygen level, or heart rate.

Once the electronic devices record these body signals, a biofeedback technician may recommend certain physical and mental exercises, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or meditation. These are designed to teach you how to relax and change the body functions being measured. Biofeedback technicians are trained and nationally certified.

Are there any possible problems or complications linked to biofeedback?

There are no known side effects of this therapy.

Biofeedback, as part of your cancer treatment plan, can be pleasant and productive, improving quality of life. But it should not replace the care and treatment from your cancer care team. Always talk with your healthcare provider for more information.

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