Dream that Can Save Your Life by Larry Burk, MD, CEHP

Have you ever had a dream that related to your health or to an illness in someone close to you? That is what happened to the 18 women from around the world in my 2015 scientific survey of Warning Dreams Preceding the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer which was published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing and sponsored by DreamsCloud.

The most common five characteristics of warning dreams reported were: a sense of conviction about the importance of the dream; more vivid, real or intense than ordinary dreams; an emotional sense of threat, menace or dread; the use of the specific words breast cancer/tumor; and the sense of physical contact with the breast.

In more than half of the cases, the dreams prompted medical attention, were shared with consulting doctors, provided the location of the tumors, and led directly to diagnosis. A less frequent characteristic was a warning message from a deceased family member. Sometimes other dream guides would appear in the form of doctors wearing white coats and provide valuable medicalinformation.

Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos had Franciscan monk guides who would appear through a pop-up window in her dreams to warn her about breast cancer. Kat is now my co-author for the new book Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseasespublished by Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. on 4/17/18. More information about the book can be found at www.larryburkmd.com

Since the original study we have been receiving reports of dreams about many other types of cancer including brain, colon, lung, ovarian, prostate, skin, testicular, tongue, and uterine cancers. The book also has dreams about other kinds of illnesses, dreams of healing and dreams about illnesses in other people.

My favorite healing story in the book is from Wanda Burch who underwent chemotherapy for her breast cancer which was originally diagnosed through a dream. She had a dream of a bag of toxic chemotherapy hanging from an IV pole which turned into energy food as it ran into her arm. She recorded a guided meditation based on her dream, listened to it during her treatment, and had very few side effects.

If you have a health-related dream the first questions to ask are: Is it about me or someone else; and is it about a real physical illness or is it a metaphor for an emotional issue in my life? One of the best ways to resolve that question is to ask for a clarifying dream the next night as to what the dream actually meant. Once you have more information you can decide what kind of action you need to take guided by the dreams. If it seems like a real health problem it is important to share the dream with your doctor.


Burk, L. Warning dreams preceding the diagnosis of breast cancer: a survey of the most important characteristics. Explore. 2015; 11(3).

Kanavos, Kathleen O’Keefe: Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing (Fort Bragg, CA: Cypress House, 2014).

Burch W.E. She Who Dreams: A Journey into Healing Through Dreamwork (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003).