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Reflexology Helps Ease Chemo, Hormonal Therapy Side Effects

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Reflexology is a specialized type of foot massage that has been practiced for thousands of years. Archeologists have found evidence that pharaohs in ancient Egypt received reflexology treatments. Reflexology is based on the idea that stimulating specific points on the feet can improve the functioning of corresponding organs, glands, and other body parts.

A study has found that reflexology helped ease some side effects from chemotherapy and hormonal therapy treatments in women being treated for metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer is advanced-stage cancer that has spread to parts of the body away from the breast, such as the bones or liver.

The study was published in the November 2012 issue of Oncology Nursing Forum. Read the abstract of “Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes: A Reflexology Trial With Patients With Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer.”

In the study, 385 women were receiving chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy to treat metastatic breast cancer. The women were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • treatment by a certified reflexologist
  • foot massage by a massage therapist
  • no foot manipulation

The women were asked about any treatment side effects they were having three times during the study:

  • at the study’s start, before they received any foot treatment
  • 5 weeks after the study started
  • 11 weeks after the study started

The researchers found that women in the reflexology group had much less shortness of breath, a common side effect of chemotherapy and some hormonal therapies, compared to women in the other two groups.

The women in the reflexology group also were better able to perform daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, getting dressed, or going grocery shopping. This was likely because they had fewer breathing problems compared to the other two groups of women.

Reflexology didn’t seem to ease any emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression and it also didn’t seem to reduce pain or nausea.

This is the first time reflexology has been studied in a rigorous, scientific way and the results are very encouraging. None of the women had any side effects from the reflexology or foot massage.

If you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and are having trouble breathing because of treatment, you may want to talk to your doctor about this study and whether reflexology may be an option for you.

You can learn more about complementary and holistic techniques, including how to talk to your doctor about complementary medicine and a resource guide, in the Complementary and Holistic Medicine section.

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