Bringing Reflexology to Homes of Patients with Breast Cancer
April 27, 2012
This home-based quality of life intervention is a five year project. Dr. Wyatt and her team will test the benefits of a home-based intervention of foot reflexology provided by a friend or family member for improving health related quality of life (HRQOL), including symptom management and physical functioning for advanced breast cancer patients.
Reflexology is a practice based on the principles that there are reflexes in the feet and hands that correspond to all organs, glands, and parts of the body. Foot reflexology involves applying targeted pressure to specific areas of the feet called reflexes and is based on the premise that stimulation of these reflexes create a nerve pathway connecting to specific organs, glands, and systems of the body.
“When reflexology is integrated with conventional therapy, it helps patients attain a better quality of life,” said Wyatt. “The use of complementary therapies such as reflexology has gained in popularity with cancer patients. According to Heather Boon, up to 80% of women with breast cancer are using CAM therapies. I have found that the sicker a woman is, the more likely she is to use multiple therapies.”
The aim of this new study is to determine the effects of a 4-week, home based reflexology intervention delivered by a friend or family member. The research team will track unscheduled symptom-related use of health services and determine if positive effects to HRQOL are influenced by social support.
“Through this study, we will evaluate the cost of unscheduled symptom related health service visits and the impact that social support along with reflexology may have on improving the health of advanced breast cancer patients. This grant will help to make reflexology more accessible to cancer patients,” said Wyatt.
For over 15 years, Wyatt has conducted research interventions testing complementary therapies that improve HRQOL. Her research aims to reduce symptoms related to cancer and its treatment, and ultimately enhance HRQOL.
The new study builds upon findings of a recently completed NCI R-01 grant for $3.1 million which examined the benefits of reflexologist-delivered reflexology on HRQOL for women with breast cancer. The completed study specifically found that the symptom of dyspnea, or shortness of breath, was improved, and in turn, participants were able to function better in 10 areas of physical activity such as carrying a bag of groceries and walking a flight of stairs.
Wyatt says, “Our quality of life model, which is the blueprint behind our research, indicates that either a reduction in symptoms or an increase in functional status will lead to enhanced quality of life, and we were able to demonstrate significant changes in both of these areas via reflexology.”