Brachytherapy is an effective treatment for several types of cancer, delivering radiation straight to the tumor from inside the body. However, therapy sessions can cause significant discomfort, pain and anxiety that makes the treatment difficult for patients to tolerate.
To ease the burden on patients, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) have found an effective way to reduce pain and anxiety that does not involve another pill or procedure: aromatherapy and reflexology.
“It’s nice to have something that really helps these patients that’s not another medication,” said Lisa Blackburn, MS, APRN, an oncology clinical nurse specialist at The OSUCCC – James and lead author of the study, “Not only do these integrative therapy sessions have virtually no side effects, but patients required about 40 percent less pain medication during the procedure than those who didn’t receive these therapies.”
Cervical cancer patients undergoing brachytherapy received essential oil aromatherapy and 30 minutes of foot reflexology prior to their brachytherapy treatment sessions. Preliminary results show that patient-reported pain levels were reduced by 60 percent and anxiety decreased by 20 percent.
“Experienced reflexologists use pressure points in the foot to target specific symptoms and to generally relax the patient,” said Blackburn. “These are therapies that are simple to implement and have significant clinical effects, and I think they should be used more often, rather than always reaching for another medication.”
Blackburn hopes aromatherapy and reflexology will become a standard of care, not just for brachytherapy patients, but for any patient that may experience pain or anxiety.