Combined modality treatment of aromatherapy, footsoak, and reflexology relieves fatigue in patients with cancer

J Palliat Med. 2004 Dec;7(6):791-6. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2004.7.791.


Background: Fatigue is one of the most distressful symptoms experienced by patients with advanced cancer. Aromatherapy, footsoak, and reflexology are popular health care modality treatments in Japan, however, the effectiveness of each treatment for cancer-related fatigue has not been fully established.

Design and subjects: To investigate the effectiveness of combined modality treatment consisting of aromatherapy, footsoak, and reflexology against fatigue, an open study was performed in 20 terminally ill patients with cancer. After a patch test was performed, patients received aromatherapy that was accompanied with footsoak in warm water containing lavender essential oil for 3 minutes, followed by reflexology treatment with jojoba oil containing lavender for 10 min. Fatigue was evaluated using the Cancer Fatigue Scale (CFS) before, 1 hour after, and 4 hours after treatment.

Results: Total CFS scores improved significantly after this treatment (from 25.6 +/- 11.0 to 18.1 +/- 10.0, p < 0.001). Among three CFS subscales, physical and cognitive subscale scores were reduced significantly (11.3 +/- 6.1 to 6.7 +/- 6.1, p < 0.001; 4.5 +/- 3.2 to 2.4 +/- 2.4, p < 0.001). No adverse effects were experienced. Because all patients desired to continue this treatment, they received treatment eight times on average.

Conclusions: Combined modality treatment consisting of aromatherapy, footsoak, and reflexology appears to be effective for alleviating fatigue in terminally ill cancer patients. To confirm safety and effectiveness of this combined modality treatment, further investigation including randomized treatment assignment is warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / nursing*
  • Female
  • Holistic Nursing / methods*
  • Hospital Units*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / nursing
  • Palliative Care / methods*