Curing Cancer Through The Mind

by Alfred A. Barrios, Ph.D


This chapter presents the Self-Programmed Control (SPC) mind-body approach to curing and preventing cancer. As in my original 1961 paper, "Hypnosis as a Possible Means of Curing Cancer", the approach is based on three basic premises:

  1. The body has natural immune defenses against cancer.
  2. Negative states of mind (in particular hopelessness) can suppress the immune system.
  3. If these negative states of mind can be reversed, the immune response can be revived and the cancer prevented or rejected.

The main goal of the SPC-mind-body program is to eliminate two main sources of hopelessness, one or both of which are usually present in cancer patients:

  1. The typical "death sentence" interpretation of a cancer diagnosis;
  2. A deeply embedded hopeless attitude towards the possibility of ever achieving happiness and fulfillment in life.

The following overview briefly outlines the initial session with the patient as well as the overall strategy for subsequent sessions (the procedure is applicable for both one-on-one as well as group or class sessions): First, in order to minimize the immune-suppressing sense of dread and hopelessness usually created by a diagnosis of cancer, the initial focus is on establishing a high level of hope and belief in the power of the mind to help eliminate the cancer. This includes:

  1. Presenting the strong evidence and rationale supporting the mind-body approach to cancer;
  2. Leading the patient through mental exercises that experientially demonstrate the mind-body connection and how one has the potential to develop control over it through the power of thoughts. This would include causing salivation by having patients focus on the thought of biting into a lemon; using a thermal biofeedback device to illustrate the ability to increase blood flow to the hands by thoughts of warmth; as well as having the patient experience a number of the different SPC hypnotic techniques (demonstrations of the power of the mind);
  3. Further adding to the patient’s sense of control by leading the patient through imagery exercises where he/she visualizes the cancer cells being "gobbled up", "destroyed," "dissolved," etc. by the body’s natural defenses;
  4. Presenting case histories (testimonials) of numerous successful applications of the mind-body approach to cancer.

In order to minimize the other possible major source of hopelessness in patients – hopelessness about their lives in general – a comprehensive psychotherapeutic approach is taken where the SPC techniques are used to facilitate the reprogramming or changing of any negative attitudes, beliefs or habits underlying the general state of hopelessness. This is usually the biggest obstacle to most current mind-body approaches since such negative states are usually deeply embedded and are hard to change or reprogram. However, the major advantage of the SPC-mind-body approach is felt to be the greater effectiveness of its unique hypnotic techniques at facilitating such reprogramming. Studies are presented to support this statement. An additional advantage of SPC's ability to facilitate reprogramming is that it can help break any bad habits causing over-exposure to carcinogenic agents,

  1. such as smoking as well as help program in other life style changes that can strengthen the immune system;
  2. such as healthy eating habits, exercise, stress management, etc. SPC can be applied concurrently with any ongoing standard therapy and help enhance the patients' positive response to this therapy. Case histories where this combined approach was successful are presented. However, because it can often produce fast results sometimes within two to three weeks or less;
  3. it could even help preclude the need for any of the standard treatments (if SPC is applied early enough) thus avoiding their often immunosuppressive effects.
The SPC Program for Heightening Success Rate
of Mind-Body Approach to Cancer

It was back in 1961 when I wrote my first paper suggesting the possibility of preventing and curing cancer by working through the mind (Hypnosis as a possible means of curing cancer, Barrios, 1961). At this time anyone suggesting such a possibility was naturally thought of as a quack and looked upon with great suspicion. But much has happened since then that now makes this mental approach to cancer a much more real possibility.

As I see it there have been two major stumbling blocks to medicine's going in this direction in the past. First there didn't seem to be any rational explanation for how by working through the mind we could possibly affect an organic disease such as cancer. And secondly medicine has not been aware of any effective tools with which to deal with the psychological factors. But now both these obstacles have been removed. We do now have a rational explanation for how the mind can affect cancer – through the immunological mechanism. And with the advent of programs like SPC, more effective methods of dealing with the psychological variables are now available.

Psychological Variables and Cancer

The idea that psychological or emotional factors could influence the course of a disease like cancer has been around for many years. As far back as 1959 Dr. Eugene P. Pendergrass concluded his presidential address to the American Cancer Society with the following remarks:

"Now finally, I would like to leave you with a thought that is very near to my heart. Anyone who has had an extensive experience in the treatment of cancer is aware that there are great differences among patients... I personally have observed cancer patients who have undergone successful treatment and were living and well for years. Then an emotional stress, such as the death of a son in World War II, the infidelity of a daughter-in-law, or the burden of long unemployment seem to have been precipitating factors in the reactivation of their disease which resulted in death ... There is solid evidence that the course of disease in general is affected by emotional distress ... Thus, we as doctors may begin to emphasize treatment of the patient as a whole as well as the disease from which the patient is suffering. We may learn how to influence general body systems and through them modify the neoplasm which resides within the body.

"As we go forward in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth to stamp out cancer... searching for new means of controlling growth both within the cell and through systematic influences, it is my sincere hope that we can widen the quest to include the distinct possibility that within one's mind is a power capable of exerting forces which can either enhance or inhibit the progress of this disease."
[Pendergrass, 1959, 1961]
Even before Dr. Pendergrass's impassioned plea for a greater emphasis on investigating the mind's potential for conquering cancer, there was considerable evidence to support the mind-cancer connection. Much of this initial evidence was presented at a 1954 UCLA sponsored conference as reported in the book, The Psychological Variables in Human Cancer [Gengerelli, 1954]. This and two subsequent conferences – the first and second conferences on the Psycho physiological Aspects of Cancer held by the New York Academy of Sciences in 1966 and 1968 [Bahnson and Kissen 1966; Bahnson 1969] indicated that such psychological variables as poor outlets for emotional discharge (especially anger), a strong sense of loss of a loved one, despair and hopelessness seemed to be playing a major part in cancer. And such factors were present prior to as well as during the disease.

Numerous subsequent studies have since further confirmed the connection between the psychological state of hopelessness and cancer. For instance in her book The Type C Connection – The Mind-Body Link to Cancer and Your Health [Temoshok 1993, p.136-137] stated:

"For three decades, mind-body scientists have documented that chronic hopelessness – different from depression – can be damaging to our health and, specifically, to recovery from cancer. Drs. A.H. Schmale and Howard Iker from the University of Rochester studied a group of sixty-eight women before a biopsy to determine cervical cancer. The researchers were able to predict which patients had cancer with 73 percent accuracy. The single factor upon which they made their predictions was the presence of hopelessness. Karl Goodkin, M.D., and his colleagues at the University of Miami evaluated seventy-three women awaiting workup for an abnormal Pap smear. They discovered that patients with advanced disease had more life stress, and had reacted to that stress with hopelessness."

Hopelessness has been studied in animals as well. How, you may ask, can we tell if an animal feels hopeless? While animal researchers can't exactly re-create this peculiarly human state of mind, they can create a close analogue – helplessness. The loss of control mirrors and overlaps the human experience of the loss of hope. To induce helplessness, researchers place mice in experimental situations in which they are unable to remove a source of stress – usually a shock delivered to their tails. In dozens of such studies, the helpless mice have been shown to suffer severe damage to their immune systems. Tumors implanted in these mice grow faster and cause death more rapidly. To the extent that we can translate from mouse to man – and most mind-body scientists think we can – the lesson is simple: when we lose control over our inner and outer environments, our disease-fighting abilities are impaired.

There have also been a number of studies showing that cancer patients who were provided positive psychotherapeutic intervention aimed at, among other things, instilling a greater sense of empowerment (as opposed to helplessness-hopelessness) showed considerable improvement. This includes the work of Dr. O. Carl Simonton and Stephanie Simonton-Atchley [1973, 1974, 1978]. They studied the effects of their mind-body therapy, which included group support, stress management and visualization, on 159 "incurable" cancer patients. Two years later 63 were alive; 22% had no evidence of disease and 19% had tumors that were shrinking. Lawrence LeShan [1966] one of the earliest pioneers in the use of psychotherapy to deal with the hopelessness factor has said that almost half of his "terminal" patients outlived their doctors predictions.

More recently, the results of a two studies [Spiegel, 1989 and Fawzy et al, 1993] add further credence to the possibility of combating cancer through the mind

Spiegel recruited for his study eighty-six women with advanced metastases breast cancer, all of whom received similar medical treatment. But one portion was randomly assigned to Dr. Spiegel's group therapy program which provided each patient with social support, encouragement, and skills enabling them to express their feelings, and have a greater sense of empowerment. The rest received only the routine medical care. After ten years, the researchers found that the women in therapy lived almost twice as long as those not in therapy. The treatment group had survived an average of thirty seven months from the outset of the study, while the non-treatment group lived for an average of nineteen months.

Fawzy's study involved a total of 68 malignant melanoma patients. After all had received the same medical (surgical) treatment, they were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group. The treatment consisted of six weekly 1 1/2 hour group psychiatric sessions aimed at enhancing coping skills, teaching stress management and providing group support. The results showed that at the six year follow-up the treatment group had statistically significant fewer deaths (3 of 34) as compared to the control group (10 of 34). Or to put it another way the group that did not get the psychiatric treatment had over three times the death rate as those who did.

An Explanation – The Immune System

Although the above results have been highly encouraging, it is obvious that the medical community will continue to ignore the possibility of curing cancer through the mind unless there is some rational scientific explanation for how this could be possible. The most logical explanation of how the mind can affect cancer is through its effect on the immune system. If it could be shown that the mind can significantly affect the immune response to cancer, the medical community would be much more receptive to the possibilities of a mind-body approach to cancer. Of course the first step would be to show that there is a natural built-in immune response to cancer to begin with. Although this is now an accepted fact, to the point where immunotherapy is fast becoming the fourth standard type of cancer therapy (in addition to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy), this was not the case back at the time of my first paper on cancer and the mind in 1961. At that time people were still puzzled by cases of "spontaneous remission", not realizing that the body had its own natural defenses against cancer and could eradicate it on its own without standard treatment. One of the first studies to establish this as fact was presented by West [1954]:

Mass surveys which have been conducted for the detection of early cancer of the uterine cervix have produced some very enlightening information. A large group of women in whom carcinoma in situ [in its original place] was detected by the Papanicolaou technique and later confirmed by Punch Biopsy were followed. In only 20% of these did the malignant cells invade the basement membrane and become Grade One carcinomas requiring treatment. In the remainder this growth disturbance was self controlled and vanished. Thus, we are confronted with the very likely possibility that all of us may have had, have or will have some form of cancer. But because of inherent natural control of the neoplastic process we will never know it and will, in all probability, die of unrelated causes.

In recent years there have been a large number of studies showing a direct connection between the mind and the immune response to cancer. The first series of studies "The Breakthrough" that helped put mind-body science on the map, according to Temoshok [1993, p.186], were done in the early 1970's by Dr. Robert Ader, the person who coined the term psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) to describe the mind-body connection affecting such diseases as cancer. What Ader and his group found was that by following a Pavlovian conditioning paradigm they could condition a group of rats to suppress their immune response. How Ader did this was to give the rats a drug that suppressed their immune system at the same time they were fed saccharin-sweetened water. Later, when the rats were given only the sweet water, the immune functions plummeted just as if they had been given the immune-suppressing drug. Thus, "Ader realized that the brain must be involved in immunity. How else could a rat learn to suppress its own immune system?"

Subsequent studies using a paradigm similar to Ader's have shown that you can also condition rodents to enhance their immune response. Ghanta et al [1985] showed conditioned elevations in NK, natural killer, cell activity (one aspect of the immune response) in mice using the smell of camphor as the conditioned stimulus.

This now provided us with the mechanism whereby words or thoughts (the mind) could directly affect the immune system in humans. Simply stated, words and thoughts can act as conditioned stimuli [Pavlov quote on p.14] and thus can become associated with either immune suppressing or enhancing responses.

The next question would be: have there been any studies showing that states of mind can directly affect the immune response. The answer is a resounding yes. Perhaps the largest number of such studies have come from immunologist Ronald Glaser M.D. and psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser Ph.D. of the Ohio State University College of Medicine as reported in Norman Cousins' [1989] Head First; The Biology of Hope. In one study they found that medical students, as examinations approach, will experience reduced NK activity and that those students who said they felt extremely lonely had the least active NK cells.

The Glaser/Kiecolt-Glaser team also observed immune impairment in individuals enduring chronic (unrelenting) stress. In one study thirty-four caregivers of Alzheimer's disease victims were compared with thirty-four control subjects. Caregivers had lower percentages of total T-cells, helper T-cells and helper\suppressor T-cell ratios and higher antibody titers to latent viruses (all various aspects of the immune response). In another study Drs. Kiecolt-Glaser and Glaser compared thirty-eight married and thirty-eight separated or divorced women. The re-searchers found that women who had been separated or divorced were more depressed, and had lower percentages of NK cells, less immune stimulability, and higher antibody titers to latent viruses.

The Glasers have also demonstrated that the reduction of stress or the enhancement of positive emotions can have the effect of boosting immunity. For instance, when the above-mentioned Alzheimer’s caregivers were placed in a support group, they felt substantially less lonely and had significantly higher percentages of NK cells than those not involved in a support group.

Other studies showing that psychotherapeutic interventions can enhance the immune response include those of Dr. Haberman and Levy of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute – another immunologist and psychologist team. Along with psychologists Judith Rodin and Martin Seligman, they conducted a pilot study of patients with melanoma and colon cancer to see if psychological treatment could boost the patients' natural immunity.

Of the thirty patients in the study all received standard medical treatment, but half were given an eight-week course in relaxation techniques and cognitive therapy. The relaxation helped the patients reduce stress and the cognitive therapy helped them to cope with depression, regain control, and cultivate optimism. In his book, Learned Optimism. Dr. Seligman describes Sandra Levy's reaction when she got the first definitive results from their study:

"Holy Cow! You should have seen those numbers". I have never heard Sandy as excited as she was on the phone that November morning, two years later. "The natural killer cell activity is up very sharply in the cancer patients who got cognitive therapy. Not at all in the controls. Holy Cow!"

In short, cognitive therapy strongly enhanced immune activity – just as we hoped it would. Not only did the therapy patients have stronger NK cells, but they were less depressed and self-blaming. Rodin, Seligman and their colleagues at the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute will track these patients to see whether therapy also increases life span.

The Main Stumbling Block Holding Back the PNI Approach. There are three basic premises upon which the PNI approach to preventing and curing cancer is based:

  1. The body has natural immune defenses against cancer,
  2. Negative states of mind can suppress the immune system,
  3. If these negative states of mind can be effectively and permanently reversed, the immune response can be revived and the cancer prevented or rejected.

Back in 1961, the time of my first paper on the mind and cancer, the first two premises were still on shaky grounds and the third was an unmentionable lest you be labeled a quack or charlatan. Since then, great strides have been made towards supporting the first two premises as can be seen from the above-mentioned studies. However, the third premise still remains the main stumbling block for the PNI approach to achieve its full potential. To be more specific, it is the first half of this premise ("If these negative states of mind can be effectively and permanently reversed... ") that is the major obstacle. The reason for this is that it is very hard to change deeply imbedded behavior – long standing beliefs, attitudes and habits.

Most current commonly used forms of psychotherapy are still woefully inadequate when it comes to facilitating such necessary changes. This then is where the SPC approach can be most helpful because of the more effective belief building techniques of the SPC program which are so important for facilitating change reprogramming. The greater belief helps block out the interference from previous negative programming). The fact that difficulty of changing their behavior patterns is a common problem amongst cancer patients is brought out quite clearly throughout Temoshok's book The Type C Connection [1993]:

"Despite these realizations, Naomi said that changing her old behavior was one of the hardest things she'd ever attempted [p.28]. Through the course of my research, I learned that some people cannot change their Type C [cancer prone] behavior, for reasons that were hard to discern [p.44].
'I never wanted to be unhappy, to deny my feelings, to let people take advantage of me, and I certainly never wanted to get sick! I was stuck, and now realize how deep-seated it was and how hard it is to change.' "

What about our immune systems and the mind-body factors that influence our health? Don't we have control over them? Treya had come to realize we don't have total control even over these internal factors. As I said, the Type C pattern is not a path that anyone consciously chooses, and changing it can be difficult. We don't have complete mastery over our feelings and behavior [p.223].

A strict cognitive therapist might have said, "Her thoughts are causing her fear and timidity. She has to learn that he won't reject her if she stands up for herself. Then, her fear will diminish and her behavior will change." True, up to a point, if she could be made to believe that he would not walk out on her, her fear would subside. But many Type C's have a deeply held belief that they will be rejected for asserting themselves. Sometimes, no amount of rational talk can change their mind [p.333].

Incidentally, these quotes can give us insight into how to deal with a current problem associated with the mind-body approach to cancer. The problem is that many people are made to feel guilty because this PNI approach implies that we consciously caused the negative behavior that led to our cancer and if this is so, then we should easily be able to change this negative behavior. As can be seen by what Temoshok has said, not only have we not consciously chosen to instill all this cancer causing negative behavior but also most people (without effective psychotherapy) do not have that much conscious control over changing this behavior.

Until more effective forms of psychotherapy are used to help cancer patients change their deeply imbedded Type C behavior, the success rate using the mind body approach to cancer will remain low and will not attract sufficient interest and support from the medical community.

The Solution – Hypnosis

The type of therapy used in the SPC approach is a variation of hypnotherapy, which I feel is the most effective form of psychotherapy. The following statistics, presented in the article "Hypnotherapy: A Reappraisal" [Barrios, 1970], will give you some idea of how much more effective hypnotherapy is than other forms of therapy:

"Comparing the results of several studies... we find that for psychoanalysis we can expect a recovery rate of 38% after approximately 600 sessions.

"For Wolpian therapy [Behavior Therapy], we can expect a recovery rate of 72% after an average of 22 sessions, and for hypnotherapy we can expect a recovery rate of 93% after an average of 6 sessions."

It is interesting to note the negative correlation between number of sessions and percentage recovery rate. At first this seems paradoxical. However, if a form of therapy is truly effective, it should not only increase recovery rate, but also shorten the number of sessions necessary (as well as widen the range of cases treatable.)

Contrary to popular opinion that hypnosis is only effective in certain specific symptom-removal cases, a wide range of diagnostic categories have been fully treated by hypnotherapy. This includes anxiety reaction, obsessive compulsive neurosis, hysterical reactions and sociopathic disorders [Hussain, 1964], as well as epilepsy [Stein, 1963], alcoholism [Chong Tong Mun, 1966], frigidity [Richardson, 1969], stammering and homosexuality [Alexander, 1965], various psychosomatic disorders including asthma, spontaneous abortions, dysmenorrhea, allergic rhinitis, ulcers, dermatitis, infertility and essential hypertension [Chong Tong Mun, 1964,1966]. Also in the past few years an increasing number of reports indicate that the psychoses are quite amenable to hypnotherapy [Abrams, 1963, 1964; Biddle, 1967].

It might help the reader to understand why hypnosis is such a powerful tool for facilitating change if one understands that hypnosis can best be defined as a state of heightened belief [Barrios, 1969]. And as has been pointed out in Chapter I, we know how important a part belief can play in facilitating reprogramming and thus in being able to change (reprogram) deeply imbedded involuntary or automatic behavior.

This is especially important in the case of cancer since the concepts of belief and hope are closely related, and the state of hopelessness has been implicated as the key psychological factor affecting our immune system and predisposing us to cancer.

Hopelessness is both a mind state and, if you will, a non-belief system. A person who feels hopeless may go about business as usual, but inside he has given up on life's possibilities. He finds that his needs – psychological, spiritual, creative – have been frustrated and, in his view, will remain that way into the distant future. What is significant is not that he feels trapped, unfulfilled, and abandoned, it's that he feels trapped, unfulfilled, abandoned and has no faith that things can ever change.

The cancer patient is prone to two shades of hopelessness. She may suddenly look back on her life and realize "I've never had a full sense of meaning and joy in my work and relationships, and I never will." The other shade relates to the fight against cancer. The person says, "There's nothing I can do to help myself get better, I'm never going to recover." [Temoshok, 1993,p. 136]

One final comment: You should be aware that not all hypnosis is the same. Some techniques are more effective than others for increasing the all powerful belief factor. It is felt that because of the inherent immediate positive feedback (belief building) aspects of the SPC techniques, SPC is one of the more effective hypnotherapeutic approaches.

In order to emphasize the fact that SPC is not your standard hypnotherapeutic approach as well as how effective it is for facilitating change, I have included excerpts from a letter written by my former Public Relations agent, Pam Roth, nominating me in 1996 for the Norman Cousins award in Mind-Body Health:

"June 14, 1996
"To Whom It May Concern:

"As CEO of P.J. Roth & Associates and president of The Public Service News Bureau, I have had the honor of knowing Dr. Barrios and observing his work since 1983.

"Through his SPC approach, Dr. Barrios has developed a program that has allowed people worldwide to tap into their own personal power to change their health, their happiness and their lives for the better! He has made the mind/body link accessible and understandable to the world.

"Over the years, I observed the extraordinary development of the clinical applications of his pioneering theories, and his enormous influence on the American public. At the same time, I felt it had little to do with me on a personal level. That is until 1992, when I was diagnosed with metastasis breast cancer. It was then that Dr. Barrios made the mind/body link accessible and understandable to me in the most profound way possible!

"In light of my particular case and my prognosis, my physicians encouraged me to undergo the most strenuous chemotherapy and radiation; which I did. At the same time, even faced with my own mortality, I could not summon up the resources to make necessary changes in my personal lifestyle. In many ways this was not surprising, after all, I had previously spent years of therapy unsuccessfully attempting to deal with the underlying lack of self worth that showed itself in an aggressive disregard of and for my own physical and emotional well being..

"Years of therapy, will power and even cancer seemed to make little difference to ending my two pack a day habit and a 30 year addiction to nicotine. None of these could change the stress attached to my particular career choice or the fact that I had never developed necessary care and consideration for my physical "self". I was in trouble and I knew it. I had tried everything including traditional hypnosis but nothing seemed to work.

"I was depressed, anxious about the cancer that I was sure was still with me, debilitated by my treatment and more out of touch than ever with the body that had betrayed me. It was then that Dr. Barrios stepped back into my life bringing all the benefits of his years of clinical experience in mind-body health.

"Within two sessions, I made the remarkable breakthroughs that years of therapy and prior hypnosis were unable to achieve! And it was all so easy. Dr. Barrios’ approach not only convinced me that I had the power to tap into my own subconscious – it showed me how to use and apply that power to achieve deep seated change.

"Within weeks, through applying these powerful hypnotic and visualization techniques to my cancer and my personal "mind/body" split – I not only stopped smoking once and for all, I was transformed into a person in touch with and caring for her own physical and emotional needs.

"Today, I am a committed ex-smoker, who exercises, eats well and takes care of herself in every way possible. I am also, according to all tests, "cancer free" [still "free" as of August, 2000]. More importantly, I intend to give myself every opportunity to stay that way by continuing to practice the SPC techniques that have made the difference in my recovery!"

The SPC Program for Cancer Patients

The following overview will briefly describe the initial session with the patient as well as the overall strategy for subsequent sessions (The procedure is applicable for both one-on-one as well as group or class sessions):
In the initial session, focus is on establishing a high level of hope and belief in the power of the mind to help eliminate the cancer. This includes:

  1. presenting the strong evidence and rationale supporting the PNI approach;
  2. leading the patient through mental exercises that experientially demonstrate the mind-body connection; and
  3. having the patient experience some simple but powerful (belief building) mental focusing (SPC) techniques for gaining greater control over this mind-body connection. The patient is then shown how to use these SPC techniques to:

    1. facilitate reprogramming of any immunosuppressive negative mental states;
    2. enhance immune-strengthening imagery (visualization) techniques; and
    3. break any bad habits (e.g. smoking) which are causing over-exposure to carcinogenic agents. The overall strategy for future sessions (including "homework" sessions) is mapped out. This includes making a list of goals regarding pertinent negative mental states that need to be changed and planning the strategy to achieve these goals using the SPC text (this book).
Part I: Establishing Hope

The initial and perhaps most important step in any PNI approach to Cancer is to establish a strong sense of hope. As has been shown in numerous studies, a key, if not the key, psychological variable capable of suppressing the immune system is a state of helplessness-hopelessness.

Although the initial causes of this state of hopelessness can be many (loss of a loved one, seeing no way out of a bad marriage, failure after failure in life, retirement with resultant loss of meaning to life, realization of never achieving life's dreams, etc., etc.), perhaps the biggest source of hopelessness comes from the common association of cancer with death. To be told one has cancer is considered by many a death sentence, a truly hopeless situation. Thus, the first thing that is done in the SPC-PNI approach is to create a strong sense of hope and belief that by working through the mind we can indeed affect the body and help reverse this disease.

The following steps are used in the SPC-PNI program to help establish a strong sense of hope and conviction that the cancer can be overcome from within:

  1. Present the evidence that the body does have natural defenses against cancer. This would include such studies as that of West [1954] reported above where it was shown that in 80% of women with cancer of the cervix (in situ), the natural defenses were able to eliminate the cancer completely.

  2. Present the evidence that mental states can play a key role in affecting the immune system. This includes all the studies presented above that not only showed that certain negative states of mind could suppress the immune system but also when these states of mind were reversed, the immune response was enhanced.

  3. Present the logical and rational explanation of how the mind has the potential to control the body. Belief is a major factor in establishing hope, and logic is a very potent means for increasing belief. Here you could present the work of Ader showing that the immune response can be conditioned (and thus controlled by the brain) as well as the Pavlovian explanation showing how thoughts can be used to evoke and control physiological responses.

  4. Have the cancer patient experience first hand that the mind can indeed influence the body. Although many people have heard of the mind-body connection, they still find it hard to believe. But as they say, "seeing is believing". Have the patient go through the "lemon" demonstration. When he finds himself salivating automatically to thoughts of a sour lemon, a light will suddenly go on and he will more clearly see how it would indeed be possible to affect the immune system through thoughts (the mind).

  5. To reinforce this concept even more, you can tell him about one of the studies done to confirm the power of the placebo (a positive expectation of or belief in healing or pain relief) to influence the body. For instance the study where dental patients in pain were given an injection of what they were told was a pain killer but in reality was just plain saline solution (a placebo). What was found was that the patient not only experienced pain relief as a result of the placebo but there was a concomitant rise in the level of endorphins (the body's natural pain-killing drug). The thought or expectation of pain relief produced the physiological release of endorphins into the blood stream much in the same way as the thought of biting into a lemon produced an automatic salivary response. Similarly, the thought or belief that he will now be healed of cancer can produce the physiological release of the immune response "juices" – T-Cells, NK, natural killer cells, etc. (and the stronger the belief, the stronger the response).

  6. We also need to have the patient's doctors and nurses aware of all the above. This will help in two ways. First, if they can let the patient know that they accept these facts as real, the belief and hope factor will be increased tremendously. And the doctor does not have to think he is giving false hope because these facts are real. Secondly, they can go a long way towards eliminating any possible nocebo effect (the opposite of a placebo effect) that doctors often inadvertently cause. The hopelessness of cancer is not just experienced by patients but by most of the medical community as well. Often, well-meaning doctors tell the patient that he is going to die within a certain period of time. He is told that based on statistics he only has so long to live.

    Understanding the power of the mind and how it affects the immune system, you can now appreciate how deadly the hopelessness created by such a statement can be, especially coming from so prestigeful (believable) a person as a doctor.

    This nocebo factor can be especially detrimental when we are trying to use the PNI approach with a patient. Since most doctors are primarily physically oriented with regards to most diseases, especially cancer, and are not going to be too receptive to an approach that seems to go counter to all their training, they are very likely to express negative feelings with regards to the validity of this PNI approach. This would be a very powerful nocebo that could negate all of the positive hope we are trying to build up. It makes it all the more important that all medical personnel in contact with the patient be given the above scientific rationale behind the PNI approach.

  7. Present the testimonials or case histories of patients that have been successfully cured using this approach. Hearing about actual cases where the PNI approach has worked will further increase the belief-hope factor.

    Some excellent examples can be found in Chapter 13 (Stories of Hope, Change, and Survival) of Temoshok's [1993] book. Take for instance the story of Irwin. Diagnosed initially with testicular cancer, the cancer had eventually spread to his lymph nodes, chest and lungs. One tumor on his neck had grown so large he was forced to keep his head at an odd tilt. His doctors told him that even with the best treatment at the time (a combination of surgery, radiation, cobalt and nitrogen mustard) he had only three to four months to live and that he had zero chance of survival. At this point he sought the help of a psychotherapist who used hypnosis along with traditional psychoanalysis. Under hypnosis he was much more open to healing suggestions aimed at overcoming blocks in his capacity to love and be loved and to work on achieving his long term life goals. Within six months, he had resolved his love problems and gotten married, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest – a lifelong goal. On the very day he was ordained he got the news that his follow-up x-rays showed no more evidence of cancer. His lymph nodes and lungs were completely clear. Today, thirty three years later, Irwin is alive, well and cancer-free.

  8. Present the introduction of the SPC techniques. To begin with, the SPC techniques provide additional evidence of the power of the mind to affect the body. For example, the Arms Demonstration and the Pendulum technique show how thoughts cause automatic movements; the biofeedback card shows how thoughts of relaxation affects blood flow to the hands; etc. But most importantly, they also provide a greater sense of belief in the cancer patient's ability to not only evoke a much stronger immune response now but also to control his own destiny – through the power of the mind. This greater sense of empowerment is a very essential factor for overcoming both types of hopelessness-helplessness found in cancer patients (both that relating to one’s life in general as well as to the cancer itself).

    It should also be pointed out to the patient how and why the heightened state of belief produced via the SPC techniques can allow him to now evoke a much stronger immune response. You can start by defining "belief" as concentration on a thought to the exclusion of anything that would contradict it. Then you can use the "tug of war" and "laser beam" analogies (see "The Power of SPC", pp 16-17) to get across how much more powerful the immune response would be in this heightened state of belief:

    The result of this elimination of competing negative thoughts is analogy us to a tug of war where the other side suddenly lets go. An even better analogy to illustrate the power of SPC [the power of heightened belief] is that of the laser beam. We all know how powerful a laser beam can be; it can cut through thick steel. But how many know that a laser beam is ordinary light that has been treated so as to concentrate all its rays and bring them into harmony. Ordinary light emits light rays in all directions and at different phases. In the laser beam all rays are emitted in one direction and all at the same phase. This concentration and lack of conflict is what produces the tremendous power of the laser beam.

    In the same way, the heightened state of belief created by the SPC techniques, by cutting through all the interfering, conflicting negative thoughts, can greatly magnify the immune response ("as powerfully as a laser beam cutting through steel").
Part II: Self-Actualization – Reprogramming the Negative

Perhaps the most important factor for insuring a strong immune system is for a person to be self-actualized. A self-actualized person is almost by definition a much happier, less depressed person, full of life and naturally with a strong will to live, all of which means for a strong immune or natural defense system. A self-actualized person will also be free of any negative cancer-producing bad habits such as excessive smoking (lung cancer), excessive drinking (liver cancer), poor habits of elimination (bladder cancer, cancer of the colon), etc.

The next step then after establishing hope is to start the person on the road to self-actualization. How does one do this? Well, that's what TGFH and the SPC program are all about. One should go through the book, from cover to cover, with the serious intent of becoming a more self-actualized person. The person can do this fairly easily on his own or if necessary a family member can work with him. In either case, the instructor's outline (Parts I & II in the Appendix) will help considerably. This outline can not only be used to teach SPC to others but to oneself as well.

Each individual will find certain areas of the book that are especially pertinent for him and of course these areas should be focused on most. For instance, it has been found that harboring deep-seated feelings of resentment and anger can be a predisposing factor for cancer. If so, then one would want to especially work on programming in positive mental attitudes 2 & 3 [pp. 56-60].

By learning to become more assertive (positive attitude #2), you are able to vent poisonous feelings of anger and resentment so that they won't literally eat away at you. Assertiveness training has the additional side benefit of eventually leading to greater happiness. It helps build a more positive self-image; it helps to get more out of life ("ask and ye shall receive") and of course it lowers your overall stress level.

By developing the attitude of always looking for the good in people (positive attitude #3) you can learn to forgive more easily, to be more understanding. You realize for instance that very often the reason people have been mean and hostile is that they were not very happy or had certain psychological problems. Consequently, you learn not to take their actions personally. And you no longer harbor deep-seated (poisonous) feelings of resentment against the significant others in your life who may at one time have hurt you deeply.

Looking for the Good in even the Worst od Situations (positive Attitude #4) can be especially applied to cancer. Studies indicate that when it is applied it actually seems to insure a greater chance of recovery. For instance, there is the study done at UCLA and reported in the Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1984 under the heading, "How Cancer Made Patients Strive for Positive Changes." [Mehren, 1984] With colleagues Rosemary Lichtman and Joanne Wood, UCLA psychologist Shelly Taylor spent two years studying 78 Los Angeles area women, all with varying stages of breast cancer.

"When you consider that these women usually had had disfiguring surgery, had often had painful follow-up care and had been seriously frightened and lived under the shadow of possible recurrence," said Taylor, the women in her study showed a "remarkable ability to turn a potential tragedy into a personal gain."

"It was not just making the best of it," Taylor said, "It somehow has a more valiant tone. It was making something valuable out of it."

"For some", Taylor said, "cancer was almost a catalyst, a tool for self-enhancement. One woman, a bookkeeper, had for years dreamed of writing fiction. It took cancer to blast her out of her dreams and onto the typewriter."

Over half her subjects, Taylor reported, indicated that the cancer experience had caused them to reappraise their lives. One, for instance, explaining how the disease had unleashed a new attitude on life stated: "I have much more enjoyment of each day, each moment. I am not so worried about what is or isn't or what I wish I had." Another stated: "The ability to understand myself more fully is one of the greatest changes I have experienced." And perhaps the most important thing brought out in this study was that these new positive attitudes could play a key role in recovery. Many of them embraced what Taylor called "a belief that positive attitudes would keep the cancer from coming back. It was as if the power of positive thinking had come to life."

Again, it should be emphasized that the areas one needs to focus on most may vary from individual to individual. For one person the roots of his unhappiness and hopelessness may lie in the area of not fulfilling life's goals. For another it might simply be in unfulfilled relationships. For another it might be feelings of inferiority caused by poor initial schooling. For another it could be certain sexual problems, etc. For many it will be a combination of several areas. In any case, the individual now has a way to systematically and effectively work on changing (reprogramming) his life for the better and thus reviving his natural defenses.

Part III: The Use of Visualization

I also make use of the much talked about Simonton method of having the patient visualize the cancer being destroyed by the body's immune mechanism [Barrios and Kroger, 1976]. This could mean any number of possible images. Perhaps, you might see the cancer as a glob of hamburger meat and the body's defenses as a vast army of hungry little creatures gobbling up the meat. Or you could see the cancer as a mass of brown sugar and the defenses as a strong stream of warm water dissolving and flushing away the mass. Or you could picture the cancer as a mound of dirt and the defenses as a powerful vacuum cleaner sucking away all the dirt.

Obviously the picture doesn't have to be an exact mirror of what is actually going on. The main thing is to be focusing on a positive image that will draw out the natural defenses. The principle operating here is the same one explaining how you can produce salivation by focusing on the thought of lemon.

If you want to produce the physiological response of salivation, you don't picture the salivary glands secreting; you think of something that would cause the glands to secrete – like an imaginary lemon. You could say that one way these positive visualizations help is by further increasing the belief factor which in turn helps draw out more of the "positive (immune response) juices".

Also, it is not an absolute necessity to have good powers of visualization for this procedure. Just thinking about it or imagining it can also be effective. Belief is really the most important factor. One can have very good powers of visualization or imagination but without belief the imagery becomes fantasy and is not as effective. This is one reason the SPC approach to cancer is felt to have a major advantage. The SPC program is felt to be more effective in raising this all-important belief factor.

The Use of Visualization for Other Diseases

One interesting thing to keep in mind is that if this picturing technique works for cancer, it should work for just about any other disease or ailment affecting the body. For instance, in one of my recent seminars held for medical personnel, a nurse reported the following fascinating account of how she used this method to heal her ulcer:

    "Gastric and Duodenal ulcer diagnosed by X-ray with probable surgery in 3 weeks.

    "Used diet, antacids and Simonton method exclusively three times a day for 20 minutes. Scheduled times – (1) waking, (2) mid-day,(3) prior to sleep.

    "Utilized relaxation and visualization.

    "Visualization involved white blood cells appearing white, fuzzy and caring. They protected the ulcer area and then filled in the ulcer area by packing themselves into the actual hole, filling it in totally.

    "Three weeks later – re-X-rayed with M.D. and radiologist stating ulcers completely healed. The healing process being the most rapid they had ever seen for such a severe gastric ulcer."

Another fascinating example of the effectiveness of this visualization-relaxation technique was reported to me by Ralph Mallen, the nurse who with the help of SPC cured himself of a number of ailments [p.129]. It seems that a friend of his was scheduled for surgery in three weeks for removal of a badly swollen prostate gland. At this point, Ralph introduced his friend to SPC. He worked with him a total of only 2 or 3 sessions during the three weeks, starting with the lemon example and introducing him to the Pendulum, the Garden and the Spiral as well as the 20-10 countdown. After each technique he would have him visualize the prostate slowly shrinking. He also had his friend use the techniques for combating the extreme stress he had been under recently.

Positive results began to occur almost immediately. One of the first things to go after just one session – the pain accompanying the swelling. When this person returned for the final checkup prior to surgery, the doctor was amazed to find the swelling had disappeared and surgery was no longer necessary.

Further Considerations

Eliminating Over-Exposure To Any Carcinogenic Agents

As pointed out in Chapter IX, there are two basic factors in all diseases: the disease producing agent and the body's ability to defend against this agent. This means that it is possible for a non Type C psychologically healthy person to contract cancer – if he is exposed to sufficiently high doses of carcinogenic agents that would overcome even a strong, healthy immune system (or if very early cancer detection techniques are used and detect the cancer before the immune system kicks in to eliminate the cancer). Thus, although the main focus of the SPC approach to cancer is a PNI-oriented one aimed at helping to change any negative states of mind suppressing the immune system, we would of course also recommend eliminating any over-exposure to cancer producing agents such as radiation, the sun, asbestos, etc.

This would also include helping to eliminate any bad habits that could play a role in over-exposing a person to carcinogenic agents. Here, too, SPC can be of assistance – in facilitating the breaking of these bad habits [Chapter XI in Towards Greater Freedom and Happiness]. This may include excessive smoking (lung cancer), excessive drinking (liver cancer), and poor habits of elimination (bladder cancer, cancer of the colon). Poor eating habits can also be a factor as certain nutritional factors have recently been thought to be implicated in cancer, e.g. lack of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene as well as a diet high in fats and low in roughage.

The PNI Approach and Standard Treatments

There are many in the medical community who might be fearful that the PNI approach might convince cancer patients to forgo the standard medical treatments. Is there any justification for this fear? Are we saying that with the PNI approach there is no need for any physical treatments? The answer, of course, is no. If we look upon an established cancer as self-perpetuating, as a carcinogenic agent itself, so to speak, then we would want to do anything within reason to remove this carcinogenic agent – just as we would want to remove a person from over-exposure to radiation, asbestos, cigarette smoke, etc. However, we also have to take into account the possible iatrogenic (doctor-caused illness) qualities of the standard treatments. It is a known fact that chemotherapy and radiation therapy, while eliminating the primary cancer, are immuno-suppressive and as a result may very well lead to secondary cancers [Penn, 1974; Selby, 1985]. And certain surgical procedures can lead to secondary cancers indirectly due to depressive effects of disfigurement (e.g. breast removal) or impairment (e.g. impotence resulting from removal of the prostate).

What would be ideal would be to use less toxic forms of treatment such as hyperthermia which uses focused heat to kill the tumors rather than the more deadly radiation treatment [See Consensus on Hyperthermia for the 1990's edited by Bicher & Hastal, 1990], and the various new forms of immunotherapy currently being developed. With regards to surgery, wherever possible we should make use of less disfiguring forms (e.g. lumpectomy rather than radical breast removal).

Also, while we are referring to the possible iatrogenic effects of the treatments, it behooves us to also be aware of the possible iatrogenic effects of the very early cancer detection strategies that are currently in vogue. And I am not just referring to the possible cancer causing effects of the radiation used in mammogram testing. What I am referring to is the fact that many very early detected cancers could very well have been healed by the body's own immune defenses without the need of the radical (and possibly iatrogenic) treatments, nor without the highly depressing and imununosuppressive effects of being told one has cancer.

We have already cited West's [1954] study where 80% of the carcinomas in situ cleared up on their own when the patients were merely observed over a period of time without any radical intervention. To further substantiate this there is the study cited by Temoshok where because of a strange cancer scare at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California, all employees were subjected to extremely careful screening for undetected melanomas. To everyone's surprise they uncovered a sizable number of people with very early stage melanomas, melanomas that she feels would have disappeared on their own if left alone. As she puts it:

"The original group of melanoma patients that caused the scare may have been just a fluke. But the early stage patients found later were discovered only because they were examined with a fine-toothed comb. I believe that, in most cases, their own immune defenses would have kept their tumors in check or even eliminated them. Likewise, if everyone in your hometown were checked from head to toe for early melanomas, I wouldn't be surprised if larger than expected numbers turned up. The point is this: we all have an innate ability to control some tumors, especially if they are small and localized."
[Temoshok, 1993 p.211]

Statistics showing much higher survival rates are often used to point out the value of early detection techniques. But what is not realized is that the higher survival rates could be due to two factors. First, since survival rate is measured from the time of initial detection, we will naturally have longer survival rates for cancers that are now being detected earlier. For instance, if the cancers are now being detected a year earlier, a previous 4-year survival rate would now show up as a 5-year survival rate [Moss, 1999, p.40]. Secondly, since the cancers are being detected at much earlier stages, we also have to take into account the fact that the body’s own natural defenses during the earlier stages could have played a key role in eliminating the cancer rather than the subsequent treatment. Remember the West [1954] study where with no treatment at all 80% of the cancers cleared up on their own.

It is frightening when we realize that even if survival rates for many cancers have increased in recent years, the actual death rate has not decreased. In fact, according to R. W. Moss [1999] formerly with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center:

"there has been a steady increase in the cancer death rate in the United States this century. Cancer accounted for one in 27 deaths in 1900, one in 16 in 1920, one in 12 in 1930, one in nine in 1940, one in seven in 1950, one is six in 1960-1970, and one in five in 1988… It might appear that the reason for this increase is simply that we are living longer and that cancer is a disease of old and middle age. But this is not the only reason for the increase: these figures are age-adjusted, and have already taken into account the shift in seniority among the population."

In any case, it becomes a question of time as to when to use the PNI approach and when to use the radical treatments if necessary. If very early detection techniques are being used, then I feel we do have more time to use the PNI approach before the radical treatments are tried. Ideally, I would like to see the patient using the SPC-PNI approach for six weeks prior to any treatments. It could take this long before any visible signs of positive effects occur. If the cancer clears up in this time, there should be no need for the radical treatments.

And it is very possible that positive results could occur in considerably less than six weeks. For instance, one woman that I know of achieved positive results in just three weeks. This was the mother of one of my Santa Monica College students taking my SPC class. Three years previously a cancer of the breast had been diagnosed and a radical mastectomy performed. Now a cancer had been found in the second breast and she was being prepared for surgery when an infection caused a postponement for three weeks. Just about this time the daughter introduced her to SPC and my ideas on cancer. The woman took to SPC with great enthusiasm and worked with it ardently for the three weeks prior to surgery. When she went in to be prepared for surgery the doctors were amazed to find that the malignancy had "miraculously" disappeared and no further surgery was necessary.

A similar case was reported to me by one of the nurses attending my all day SPC seminar for medical personnel. She stated that her sister-in-law had used Simonton's visualization techniques to cure a cancer of the cervix, also in a period of only three weeks, naturally to the great surprise of the attending physicians.

An even more unbelievable case – also reported by a nurse in one of my seminars was that of a woman (the nurse's sister) with cancer of the cervix who through intense prayer was able to eliminate the cancerous tumor overnight, to the utter amazement of the surgeon scheduled to operate on her the next morning. If we look upon prayer as a combination of belief and visualization we can see that the same mechanisms are, most likely being triggered as in Simonton's approach. The much faster effect could be explained by the higher "laser beam" intensity of the belief factor in praying.

The Case of Jolee Marshall

That such an overnight cure as described above is actually possible was dramatically illustrated to me personally by the case of Jolee Marshall. Jolee had been given two weeks to live as a result of an inoperable cancerous tumor that was blocking her intestines. I worked with her a total of four hours introducing her to the SPC-PNI approach. The miraculous results are best described by Jolee herself in a letter she wrote to Norman Cousins four months after I saw her:

"I had a blockage across my abdomen about one inch and a half wide & 8 to 10 inches long (across) and it was hard. Dr. Barrios had heard about me & came to the hospital. He worked on me from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM. We worked on a mental process (to 'gobble' up the cancer cells). Dr. Weiner [her main doctor] came in the next AM & out of habit started feeling around the abdomen. I just laid there with a rather smug smile on my face. He started feeling – looked a little flabbergasted, felt deeper and deeper, looked at me and stuttered 'what happened?' [as he realized the blockage was gone]. I briefly told him about the night before. His hands still probing, he could hardly get the words out. 'It's a miracle!' His next very slow words were 'Maybe there's something to this stuff after all!' I have since then gone from 89 lbs to 118. Energy all over the place & more than ever show in person how strong the mind energy really is."

The case of Jolee further illustrates how powerful a heightened state of belief can be in producing so strong an immune response as to dissolve and eliminate a hardened cancerous tumor overnight. However, I realize now that her belief in being healed as a result of that one intense session was not enough to insure a permanent healing. One year after the complete remission of her cancer, Jolee had an emotional upheaval similar to the one that had preceded the first cancer’s occurrence. The cancer subsequently returned and this time it proved fatal. I realize now that in order to insure that such cures be more than just temporary, treatment should include some form of reprogramming of any potentially immunosuppressive underlying negative attitudes, habits and beliefs. I had not done this with Jolee. The cases of John Roswick and Adele Buchanon (see below) will illustrate the value of such a more comprehensive approach.

The Case of John Roswick – The SPC-PNI Approach & Religion

The fact that prayer can be a powerful tool for reviving the immune system – as in the case of the above mentioned nurse – brings up the possible overall role of religion for facilitating the healing of cancer. As has already been mentioned, the heightened belief often produced through religious faith can play a very important role in healing. But there is yet another important way religion can play a key role in healing and that is in helping to produce some very deep-seated changes in lifestyle especially in replacing immune-suppressing negative attitudes and habits, i.e. in helping an individual towards self-actualization. That the SPC-PNI approach can work hand in hand with the religious approach is illustrated by the case of John Roswick: He had been given radiation treatment for cancer of the tongue. He refused the recommended follow up surgery. At this point he discovered SPC. The following letter describes his response to the SPC approach:

"August 5, 1985

"Dear Dr. Barrios,

"Almost 6 years ago on Oct 19, 1979 1 was told I had cancer of the tongue and had a year or less to live. I hit the bottom of the pit. I started praying. Knew nothing of God or Jesus, never read the Bible, but I started. I received 35 massive radiation treatments in the neck. I said to the doctors "am I healed". They said we now have to do surgery. I said What surgery? They were going to take out half my neck. I said no. I contacted you in the summer of 1980. You agreed to see me once a week for 8 or 9 weeks, instructed me on SPC techniques and other counseling on
belief and visualization. I used your garden technique and visualizing myself 'well' on a mountain top. During my first visit with you, you gave me your book 'Towards Greater Freedom and Happiness.' You said: you now have two good books (meaning yours and the Bible) and told me to read them both. I thank God for you and your book, you strengthened my belief in what Jesus said in Mark ll:23 ['Believe and all things are possible']

"Dr. Barrios, in my opinion your program is bridging the gap between the mind, and the spirit then the body. Your program SPC was the beginning in my healing, reinforcing my belief in Jesus teachings, ridding myself of all pent up fear, especially fear, guilt, doubts, anger, unforgivness, and a bringing together of the Mind, Spirit and Body.

"My saliva returned to me during my sessions with you, my voice, and I forgot to mention, MY TASTER. [After radiation] I couldn't taste anything. The doctors said my saliva would never be the same, that my taster, taste buds, would be about 50 to 75% returned. Well today I enjoy full saliva, and full tasting abilities I had before radiation.

"It is sad to note that medical doctors don't, or won't advise patients on positive principles laid down in your book or the bible. I would urge anyone who has an illness of any nature to seek out the SPC program. It works. It puts you in tune with the real you, the spirit. It has for me and I know it will for others. I firmly believe you are an instrument of God's. And I thank him for you. I am not the same person you first met, frightened, confused, oh yes confused! My condition is healed. Your holistic approach is a blessing."

At the present time most physicians would probably be reluctant to allow one to use this mental approach alone, unless of course it could produce results as quickly as in some of the above cases.

With regards to prostate cancer there is currently a very commonly used form of action in Europe referred to as "watchful waiting". Developed by the Swedish Cancer Institute, this approach recommends not rushing into any of the standard treatments after an initial diagnosis of prostate cancer and instead watchfully waiting to see if the problem progresses. The idea is that most prostate cancers progress slowly and in such cases, by watchfully waiting, one can avoid all the problems associated with most treatments. In such cases the SPC approach can be used while "watchfully waiting".

However, in the case of most other cancers, doctors are often reluctant to "watchfully wait". If preliminary use of the SPC approach alone is not possible, it of course can be used in conjunction with any ongoing treatment and should facilitate it. I'm sure that most physicians would not be against this as they are very much aware of the importance of a positive attitude on the part of the patient. Still, I feel it would be best if we could somehow eliminate or minimize the negative side effects of the radical treatments. One possible solution has already been proposed – combining the SPC-PNI approach with nontoxic forms of treatment (such as hyperthermia).

There is another possible compromise and that is to use the SPC approach in conjunction with initial low dosages of chemo or radiation therapy. If positive results are achieved at these low dosages, then they need not be raised. And as the cancer disappears they can be eliminated altogether. This is the approach I took with the following patient:

The Case of Adele Buchanan

At the time I first saw her, Adele, age 45, was suffering from a rather fast-moving cancer of the spine, lymph glands, rib cage and base of the brain – a metastasis from an original cancer of the breast. At this time she had been placed on a low dosage of chemotherapy because of her very negative reaction to her initial dosage. I saw her over an eight-week period once a week while she was on this low-dosage regimen.

The main focus in her case was to help her to program in a more assertive personality. This allowed her to break out of the hopeless life situation that had most likely played a key role in making her more susceptible to cancer in the first place (she was now able to stand up to her very dominating and controlling husband).

As can be seen by the following letter from her surgeon praising the help I provided, the approach seemed to help:

"Adele Buchanan is being treated at the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, California for metastases carcinoma of the breast.

"In her case, her carcinoma has been rather slow in advancing and her outlook is fairly good for the next few years due to this and the fact that she seems to be responding to her chemotherapy.

"When I first met Mrs. Buchanan, she was very negative about her therapy, and her situation in general. However, in the interim she has begun to see a psychiatrist [sic] on her own accord, and I have found that this has made a great difference in her outlook towards her cancer and life in general. I feel this therapy is very beneficial to her and recommend that it be continued and that the Manitoba Health Services continue sponsoring it."

Six months later the cancer had disappeared in all four areas. Three years later when last contacted, she was still very much alive.

The Case of Michelle Hollingsworth

Another example of this way of using SPC was the case of Michele Hollingsworth. Rather than undergo a recommended mastectomy for breast cancer, she chose a combination of radiation and SPC. The following two letters, one received two years after the recommended mastectomy, and the second two years after that, tell her story:


"Dear Doctor Barrios:

"Enjoyed speaking with you the other day and relating to you my experiences with SPC.

"Was told in May of 1980 that I had breast cancer and should have an immediate mastectomy followed by extensive radiation. Much to the physician's dismay, I refused the mastectomy, but agreed to the radiation.

"I knew then that I had a lot of work to do for myself. It was with that thought that I took your class on SPC. Am now two years down the line, and am still using several of the techniques learned at that seminar. 'Imagery' was of tremendous value during the radiation treatment. I imaged the radiation as little 'critters' gobbling up the cancer cells which I imaged as oatmeal. Alternately I used the 'garden technique' feeling I needed this as well to put my body in the most receptive mood to receive the radiation.

"I carry my little biofeedback card in my wallet. If I feel myself getting tense or stressful, usually employ the '20-10 countdown' method to get into control. Then I check to see how I've done with my feedback card.

"Have check-ups every three months and my oncologist (who was really quite supportive of my decision) is delighted to find there is no sign of any malignant activity.

"Thank you again for the help.

Michele Hollingsworth"


"Dear Dr. Barrios,

"When my wallet was stolen recently, they took my money and my biofeedback card! (got back the wallet, pictures and credit cards!) Am really lost without the card. I still use it regularly and would like another.

"Still use so many of the techniques I learned in your class and still feel it was one of the most valuable classes I've ever taken.

"Am enclosing a copy of a letter I wrote you in 1982 as a reminder. Incidentally, am still cancer free and going into my 5th year.

"Thank you.

Michele Hollingsworth"

One of course cannot rely on isolated cases such as these to prove or disprove the possibilities of SPC for cancer control. For this purpose, large scale controlled studies (which someday I hope to have the opportunity to run) are needed. But so far the evidence looks good.

AIDS and Cancer

Because both cancer and AIDS are immune deficiency diseases, the PNI approach has also been explored as a possible means of helping in the fight against AIDS. Perhaps the best analysis of PNI's possibilities with AIDS is presented in the book Surviving AIDS [1990] by long-term survivor (since 1982) Michael Callen. The following are some of the conclusions he came to from analyzing his own survival as well as that of the thirteen long-term survivors he profiled in his book:

"Meeting other survivors made it very clear to me that attitude matters. The human mind is a great, largely untapped pharmacy, and it behooves anyone facing a life-threatening illness to investigate ways to harness this tremendous resource."

Having the right attitude to Callen meant above all having hope – above all a strong belief that they could survive AIDS. He felt that "Hopelessness is the component of depression which is the most malignant to the immune system." [p.48]. He also felt it meant having a joie de vivre. "I've tried to see AIDS as a chance to begin living, instead of a sign to begin dying." [p.10] "AIDS has been a cosmic kick in the ass – a challenge to finally begin living fully." [p.2]

He also found that "Survivors are assertive and able to communicate openly, including the ability to say 'no'." [p.45]

There was one other important point that Callen referred to numerous times throughout his book – the iatrogenic dangers of many of the toxic therapies being tried:

"As I watched many friends, who in desperation had grasped at the latest drug du jour, end up suffering and dying as much from drug-related toxicity's as from AIDS itself, I began to see the wisdom of Dr. Sonnabend's advice."

"Instead of bone-marrow transplants, high-dose interferon, full-body radiation, combination chemotherapy, and even more toxic nucleoside analogs such as AZT and ddl, I have explored comparatively benign therapies... "

From the above, it is obvious that those who wish to increase their ability to survive AIDS would be wise to use the SPC-PNI approach to cancer outlined in this chapter, namely:

  1. Use the above seven step approach to building a strong hope factor.
  2. Use SPC to eliminate any negative mental states or bad habits interfering with the body's remaining immune system, and
  3. Eliminate or minimize as much of the iatrogenic factor as possible.


Achterberg, J., Simonton, O.C. and Simonton, S.M.: Stress, Psychological Factors, and Cancer.
New Medicine Press, Fort Worth, 1976.

Ader, R.: Psychoneuroimmunology. New York: Academic Press, 1981.

Bahnson, C.B.: Second Conference on Psycho physiological Aspects of Cancer.
Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 164, 1969.

Bahnson, C.B. and Kissen, D.M.: Psycho physiological Aspects of Cancer.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 125, 1966.

Barrios, A.A.: Hypnosis as a possible means of curing cancer.
Unpublished Manuscript, 1961.

Barrios, A.A.: Towards Understanding The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy:
A Combined Clinical, Theoretical and Experimental Approach
(Doctoral dissertation, UCLA) Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms, 1969. No. 69-14, 039.

Barrios,A.A.: Hypnotherapy: A Reappraisal.
Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 7, 1970, pp.2-7.

Barrios, A.A.: Hypnosis as a possible means of curing cancer.
Paper presented at Int. Congress of Hypnosis, Uppsala, Sweden, 1973.

Barrios, A.A. and Kroger, W.S.: Psychological variables and the immunological response:
A new approach to the treatment of cancer. Journal of Holistic Health, 1, 1976, pp.71-80.

Bicher, H.I. et al editors: Consensus on Hyperthermia for the 1990's.
Plenum Press, New York and London, 1990.

Block, K.I.: The Role of the self in healthy cancer survivorship: A view from the front lines of treating cancer. Advances, 13, no.1, 1997, pp.6-26.

Callen, M.: Surviving Aids, 1990.
Christian Science Board of Directors: A Century of Christian Science Healings.
The Christian Science Publishing Co., 1966.

Cousins, N.: Head First: The Biology of Hope. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1989.

Cutler, M.: The nature of the cancer process in relation to a possible psychosomatic influence.
The Psychological Variables in Human Cancer, University of California Press, 1954, pp.1-16.

Fawzy, F.I. et al: Malignant Melanoma: effects of an early structured psychiatric intervention,
Coping and Affective state on recurrence and survival 6 years later.
Arch Gen Psych. 50: 681-9, 1993

Gengerelli, G., ed.: Psychological Variables in Human Cancer, Univ. of Calif. Press, 1954.

Ghanta, V.K. et al: Neural and environmental influences on neoplasia and
conditioning of NK activity. J. of Immunology, 135, 848s-852s, 1985.

Hedge, A.R.: Hypnosis in cancer. British Journal of Hypnotism, 12, 1960, pp.2-5.

Hutschnecker, A.A.: The Will to Live. Prentice Hall, Inc., 1951.

Klopfer, B.: Psychological variables in human cancer. J. Project. Techn., 21, 1957.

Leshan, L.: An emotional life history pattern associated with neoplastic disease.
New York Academy of Sciences Annals, 125, 1966,pp. 780-793.

Levine, J.D. et al: The mechanism of placebo analgesia. Lancet 2: 654-657, 1978.

Mehren, E.: How cancer made patients strive for positive changes. View Section,
Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1984.

Moss, R.W.: The Cancer Industy. Equinex Press, NY, 1999.

Mowrer, O.H.: Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes.
N.Y.: John Wiley and Sons, 1960.

Pelletier, K.: Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer. Dell, 1977.

Pendergrass, E.P.: Host resistance and other intangibles in the treatment of cancer.
American Journal of Roentgenology, 85, 1961, pp.891-896.

Penn, I.:Occurrence of cancer in immune deficiencies. Cancer, 34, 1974, pp.858-866.

Platinov, K.: The Word as a Physiological and Theraupeutic Factor. Moscow:
Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959.

Selby, P.: Iatrogenic cancer following irradiation and chemotherapy in the elderly.
Geriatric Medicine Today. Vol. 4, No. 12, Dec., 1985.

Seligman, M.E.P.: Learned Optimism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1990.

Selye, H.: The Stress of Life. McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Shapiro, A.K.: The placebo effect in the history of medical treatment:
Implications for psychiatry. American Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 1959, pp.298-304.

Simonton, O.C.: The role of the mind in cancer therapy. The Dimensions of Healing:
A Symposium
. Los Altos, California Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine, 1973.

Simonton, O.C. & Simonton, S.M.: Belief systems and management of the emotional
aspects of malignancy. Journal of Trans Personal Psychology, 1974, 7, pp.29-47.

Simonton, O.C. & Simonton, S.M. & Creighton, J.L.: Getting Well Again.
Los Angeles, J. Tarcher, 1978.

Skinner, B.F.: Verbal Behavior. Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957.

Solomon, C.F. and Amkraut, A.A.: Emotions, stress and immunity.
Health and the Social Environment, 1974.

Spiegel, D. et al.: Effect of psychosocial treatment on survival of patients with metastases breast cancer. The Lancet 888-91, 1989.

Stoler, P.: Toward cancer control. Cover story, Time Magazine, March 19, 1973.

Temoshok, L. & Dreher, H.: The Type C Connection. New York, Random House. 1993.

West, P.M.: Psychological Variables in Human Cancer. University of California Press,
1954, pp.1-16.

(back to top)