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Distraction as a Complementary Therapy for Cancer

What is distraction?

Distraction draws a person into a highly interesting activity to take their mind off pain or discomfort.

Can distraction help people with cancer?

Distraction has been found to help when people are experiencing anxiety, nausea, or mild pain. It does not cure cancer or replace other treatments. But it has been shown that distracting a person’s mind from unpleasant thoughts, procedures, or pain may help them feel better.

How does distraction work?

Many different types of activities and therapies can provide distraction. Some of them have other therapeutic benefits, too. These activities and therapies include:

  • Art therapy

  • Music therapy

  • Dance therapy

  • Imagery

  • Stories

  • Relaxation therapy

  • Virtual reality and computer games

There are also many activities that may be part of your daily life that can distract your mind from unpleasant things, such as:

  • Talking with friends or relatives

  • Watching TV

  • Listening to music

  • Reading

  • Praying or repeating a mantra

  • Doing needlework or puzzles

  • Building models or painting

Are there any possible problems or complications linked to distraction?

Distraction, as part of your cancer treatment plan, can be pleasant and productive. It should not replace the care and treatment provided by your cancer care team. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
  • Sabrina Felson MD
  • Todd Gersten MD