Purpose: To conduct a pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effects of reflexology on quality of life (QofL) in women with early breast cancer.
Patients and methods: One hundred and eighty-three women were randomised 6 weeks post-breast surgery to self-initiated support (SIS) (comparator intervention), SIS plus reflexology, or SIS plus scalp massage (control for physical and social contact). Reflexology and massage comprised eight sessions at weekly intervals. The primary end-point was 18 weeks post surgery; the primary outcome measure was the Trial Outcome Index (TOI) of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT-B) - breast cancer version. The secondary end-point was 24 weeks post surgery. Secondary outcome measures were the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Mood Rating Scale (MRS).
Results: At primary end-point, massage, but not reflexology, was significantly better than SIS on the TOI. Reflexology and massage were both better than SIS for MRS relaxation. Massage was better than reflexology and SIS for MRS easygoingness. At secondary end-point, reflexology, but not massage, was better than SIS on the TOI and MRS relaxation. There were no significant differences between reflexology or massage. There were no significant between group differences in HADS anxiety and depression. Self-reported use of out of study complementary therapies indicated that this was unlikely to have a significant effect on findings.
Conclusions: When compared to SIS, reflexology and massage have statistically significant, and, for reflexology, clinically worthwhile, effects on QofL following surgery for early breast carcinoma.
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