Penny Brohn UK (formerly The Bristol Cancer Help Centre)

Penny Brohn UK (formerly The Bristol Cancer Help Centre)

Penny Brohn UK in Bristol is a complementary cancer centre that understands people need more than medicine to live well with cancer, and so they stay true to the founder's principles of caring for the mind, emotions, spirit, heart and soul.

Penny Brohn UK, formerly Bristol Cancer Help Centre, has over 27 years experience of delivering complementary care to people living with cancer and their loved ones. The Charity’s ethos, ‘the Bristol Approach’, works as a natural partner to mainstream medical treatment and is delivered by an experienced team of complementary therapists alongside a team of doctors, nurses, nutritionists and counsellors

What is the Bristol Approach?

The Charity recognises that when people are faced with a cancer diagnosis it raises a multitude of issues and emotions; often medical treatment alone is not enough. Cancer is the start of both a medical and emotional journey, and many people benefit from finding support for themselves and their families.

This was certainly the experience of Penny Brohn, co-founder of the Charity, who was in her early thirties and married with three small children in 1980 when her breast cancer was diagnosed. Penny realised that she, and others in her situation, needed not only medical treatment but also care for the mind, the spirit, the emotions, the heart and the soul. No such support existed at this time so Penny and her great friend Pat Pilkington developed the support under one roof.

Healing touch therapy

Penny Brohn UK combines a unique range of physical, emotional and spiritual support in order to promote wellbeing in the presence of illness. The practical self-help tools taught at the Centre such as relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques can be practised at home, enabling those with cancer to more easily manage day-to-day challenges and to benefit more fully from their medical treatment.

Practical advice and emotional support is also offered to close family or friends who may also need support to manage their own emotional distress and to give them the strength to cope with everyday challenges of supporting a loved one living with cancer.

Go To: Chris Woollams can build you a Personal Complementary and Integrative Programme 

The science behind the Charity’s approach

The Bristol Approach is based upon the research into Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), the study of the connections between our mind (psycho), nervous system (neuro) and immune system (immunology). Increasingly evidence shows that changes in our thoughts, emotions and beliefs can bring about changes in our physical health and well-being.

PNI shows that emotions such as fear, anger or shock can result in increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can stop the immune system from working at its best. It is unrealistic to think that we can eliminate these emotions from our lives and so it is important to find ways to manage these natural responses to life’s challenges.

Healing touch therapy

Emerging evidence indicates that relaxation, meditation, creative pursuits or the experience of a massage provides an immediate way to reduce stress levels which helps to strengthen the body’s immune system, our first line of defence against fighting cancer.



Residential courses

Penny Brohn UK has a unique residential provision and is able to offer residential courses to people on a national and international basis alongside its other support services. Last year the Charity outgrew its previous premises and moved to a new purpose-built centre adjoining a Georgian house, nestled in four acres of scenic grounds overlooking the River Avon on the outskirts of Bristol. 

Penny1During the residential courses participants are fully supported by a team of complementary therapists, doctors, nurses, counsellors and nutritional therapists. Participants are encouraged to put aside their day to day responsibilities and give themselves permission to focus on themselves and be fully immersed in the experience on offer.

The Bristol Approach runs over two days and the Bristol Retreat is a more in-depth five day experience. The courses both include a combination of group and individual sessions; they give people an opportunity to explore the emotional impact of cancer. For some people this is the first time they have had the opportunity to express their deeper fears and worries, often about their diagnosis and their future.

Residential groups are always small and people often find benefit and comfort in talking to others in a similar situation to themselves. In the safety of the group and within their own individual appointments people look at practical ways in which they can incorporate what they have learnt within their daily lives such as dietary changes, or breathing techniques and imagery to manage stress and anxiety.

Go to: The Rainbow Diet to beat cancer

In addition to the self-help techniques course participants also experience a range of other therapies such as massage, shiatsu, healing and creative therapies such as music and art.

A great deal of scientific evidence exists to support the use of massage and shiatsu therapies for people with cancer. It can reduce anxiety, depression, nausea and pain. Touch can relieve physical symptoms, help release emotions and rebuild self-esteem leading to a greater acceptance of their physical and emotional circumstances.
Healing therapy is a further complementary approach which has always been key to the work of the Charity, it works with the flow of energy within the body. Healing does not claim to cure but to sustain and restore balance, simultaneously calming and lifting the ‘spirits’.

Penny2Creative therapies such as art and music therapy are designed to be fun, non-invasive and beneficial, as they are thought to be uplifting to moods and improve immune function. Course participants on a five day retreat are also encouraged to keep their own personal journal which helps to focus the mind on their experience and document their individual journey.

Every aspect of a residential course at Penny Brohn UK is supportive, this often allows people to let go of some of their anxieties and feel a sense of balance returning, for some the experience is transformative.

“I returned home after my residential week at the Penny Brohn UK a complete person once more, having been so lovingly given back all of the broken and lost parts of my soul – and shown how to keep them safe.  It truly was a life changing experience.”  Trish Hill, former service user

Follow up courses and support

Once people have attended a residential course they very often want to remain connected to Penny Brohn UK. Course attendees can access services such as free Doctor, Nurse and Nutrition phone-ins. These are one-to-one telephone appointments allowing the caller a chance to review their supplements, discuss self-help techniques or help with integrating the healthy eating aspect of the Bristol Approach into their lives as well as other issues.

People may also choose to come back on other residential courses in the future, such as a Mini-Retreat for the Spirit or Developing Self-Help Techniques. These courses help people to reconnect with the Bristol Approach and develop and renew the skills they have learnt and incorporate them into their daily lives.

Day Courses

In addition to the residential courses, single day courses have been created which explore particular aspects of the Bristol Approach. The focused day courses cover the following topics:

  • Relaxation and Breathwork

  • Meditation

  • Imagery

  • Nutrition for people living with cancer

And a new Healthy Cooking course for people living with cancer has also been introduced. These practical sessions help to make the healthy eating guidelines even more accessible with a guide on how to use ingredients and tips on cooking and juicing.

Cancerpoint and Community Services

Penny Brohn UK is a national and international charity offering services and support to a wide range of people. In addition to the courses on offer people living within reasonable travelling distance of the Charity can also use the Cancerpoint service. This is a pre-booked individual appointment service which can include sessions with a doctor, counsellor, nutritional therapist, healer and a wide range of complementary and creative therapies.

All Cancerpoint service users are given a free introductory appointment with a member of the therapy team. This helps to find out more about the individual’s circumstances in order to offer the most appropriate package of support. The Charity also has involvement with community groups in the Bristol locality and runs support groups for people living with cancer and their supporters.

Other facilities available to use

Penny4Once people have visited Penny Brohn UK they often like to remain connected in some way or make use of some of the other services. The Charity has a well stocked library with a range of books, CD’s and reference periodicals relating to the field of cancer and mind, body and spirituality. Service users from all over the UK are welcome to become members of the library with its flexible lending system, allowing people to borrow and return items by post once they have made use of them.

Those who visit or return for further courses often like to enjoy sitting or walking in the peaceful garden with its arboretum, labyrinth and water feature or visiting the sanctuary for a period of quiet reflection or contemplation.

There is also a restaurant which serves a delicious organic lunch with a wide array of herbal teas and an opportunity to browse in the charity’s shop. The shop stocks a wide range of items that support the centre’s work including cookery books, supplements, a selection of recommended whole foods, a range of relaxation CD’s, environmentally friendly household and natural skincare products along with other gift items.

For those who are unable to visit the shop in person there is also a mail-order and online service. For more information telephone 01275 370 158, email [email protected] or visit

The Helpline and information on booking courses
Penny Brohn UK offers a supportive National Telephone Helpline 0845 123 23 10 which is available weekdays 9.30 to 5.00pm (a 24hour answer phone is available outside these hours) or email [email protected]

The Helpline is confidential and is there to offer a listening ear and provide independent information on the wide range of therapies, professional organisations and national and local support groups available. The operators can also guide people through different aspects of the Bristol Approach and give out information about courses and how to access them.

Penny Brohn UK is a charity which receives no government funding; a charge is made for courses for those who can afford it. They do not turn anyone away on the grounds of finance and do offer payment schemes and have an access fund. The Charity aims to welcome all people who could benefit from using the valuable courses and support it has to offer. The Helpline is the gateway to finding out about any of the services offered.

Courses for Complementary Therapists and Healthcare Professionals

In addition to the support offered to people affected by cancer the Charity also runs courses for complementary therapists and other healthcare professionals. The courses offer the opportunity to learn more about the different aspects of the Bristol Approach. They support professionals working with people with cancer to understand how to help people to manage their illness. This includes the social, psychological and spiritual aspects, the symptoms and side-effects of treatment, and how people with cancer benefit from the promotion of a sense of wellbeing in the presence of illness.

“I applaud the work Penny Brohn Cancer Care is doing through its training programme for healthcare professionals and complementary therapists.”  
Professor Mike Richards, Former National Cancer Director

“ I am so happy that I am going to be able to spread the invaluable learning I received from Penny Brohn Cancer Care to many, many others here in my community of Prince Edward County.”
Jenifer Edwards, Holistic Care Practitioner, Canada

The education department at Penny Brohn Cancer Care offers a wide range of courses. For more information, or to request a copy of the latest prospectus, contact 01275 370 110 or email [email protected]

The Charity continues to set the standard in complementary cancer care and has the backing of leading oncologists, healthcare professionals and complementary therapists.Penny Brohn UK, formerly Bristol Cancer Help Centre, has been in existence for 27 years and has provided invaluable support and care to many thousands of people. The Charity’s team of therapists have had many years of experience of working with people with cancer and are drawn from medical, nursing, psychotherapy and varied complementary backgrounds. They are all members of their appropriate professional body and keep updated with developments in the field of complementary care.

“The Bristol Approach represents the gold standard in complementary care in cancer” 
Karol Sikora, Vice-President, Professor of Cancer Medicine, Imperial College, Hammersmith Hospital, London.

Although the work of the Charity develops over the years the essence of the work remains constant – supporting people to learn how to help themselves and transform the crisis of cancer into an opportunity to enhance their quality of life.

For information

For more information on courses and support available contact the Charity’s National Telephone Helpline on 0845 123 23 20 or email [email protected]

The Charity also has a website which details all the services and support on offer, visit


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