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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 his or her mind off pain or discomfort.

Can distraction help people with cancer?

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

How does distraction work?

Many different types of activities and therapies can provide distraction. Some of the therapies that provide effective distraction in addition to other therapeutic benefits include the following:

  • 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, including:

  • Talking with friends or relatives

  • Watching TV

  • Listening to the radio

  • Reading

  • Doing needlework or puzzles

  • Building models or painting

Are there any possible problems or complications linked to distraction?

Distraction, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, has the potential to be pleasant and productive. It should not replace the care and treatment provided by your cancer care team. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Levin, Mark, MD
  • LoCicero, Richard, MD
  • Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
  • Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA