Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

Effects of biofield vs. mock healing for fatigue, cytokines, and cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors : a randomized, controlled trial


This randomized, placebo-controlled trial investigated the use of biofield healing (termed energy healing), compared to mock healing, for the alleviation of fatigue and inflammation after adjuvant or neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Thirty-three women breast cancer survivors were studied at the UCSD General Clinical Research Center prior to and following 4 weeks of healing or mock healing, as well as immediately before and after healing or mock healing sessions. Participants received 8 one-hour sessions (twice per week) of either biofield or mock healing. Outcome measures included fatigue (via the MFSI- sf), depression (via the CESD), mood disturbance (via the POMS-sf), quality of life (via the FACT-B), and self- reported sleep quality (via the PSQI). In addition, the study examined potential changes in pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines and receptors (IL-6, sIL-6R, sIL- 1Ra, IL-4, and TNF-RII), as well as circadian rhythms of the hormone cortisol. Participants also rated their guess of treatment (energy healing or touch alone). Intent-to- treat analyses were performed for all psychological outcome variables. Results indicated that both groups significantly decreased in overall fatigue over time. There was a trend toward significant differences between the healing group and mock group on overall MFSI-sf fatigue scores, with the healing group showing a notably steeper decline over time compared to the mock group. There was a significant group x time interaction for CESD scores, such that the healing group decreased in depression over time compared to the mock group. Both groups decreased significantly in overall POMS-sf Total Mood Disturbance over time. Expectation itself predicted changes in FACT-B scores. Repeated-measures ANCOVA analyses for cytokine data revealed a significant group x time interaction for IL-4, such that the healing group decreased in this marker over time compared to the mock group. There was also a significant group x time interaction for sIL-1Ra, such that the mock group increased in this marker over time compared to the healing group. This pattern was also reflected in a trend for a group x time interaction for IL-6. Both groups showed significant time effects for sIL-6r. There were significant group x time interactions for cortisol slopes and mean cortisol, with women in the healing group had more negative slopes (increased variability) and decreased mean cortisol. Results suggest a differential outcome profile for breast cancer survivors who received healing sessions vs. those who received mock healing. Further research is warranted to better ascertain the specific vs. nonspecific effects of biofield healing for fatigue and immune function in breast cancer survivors.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View