Purpose/objectives: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of reflexology, a complementary therapy that applies pressure to specific areas of the feet.
Design: Longitudinal, randomized clinical trial.
Setting: Thirteen community-based medical oncology clinics across the midwestern United States.
Sample: A convenience sample of 385 predominantly Caucasian women with advanced-stage breast cancer receiving chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy.
Methods: Following the baseline interview, women were randomized into three primary groups: reflexology (n = 95), lay foot manipulation (LFM) (n = 95), or conventional care (n = 96). Two preliminary reflexology (n = 51) and LFM (n = 48) test groups were used to establish the protocols. Participants were interviewed again postintervention at study weeks 5 and 11.
Main research variables: Breast cancer-specific health-related quality of life (HRQOL), physical functioning, and symptoms.
Findings: No adverse events were reported. A longitudinal comparison revealed significant improvements in physical functioning for the reflexology group compared to the control group (p = 0.04). Severity of dyspnea was reduced in the reflexology group compared to the control group (p < 0.01) and the LFM group (p = 0.02). No differences were found on breast cancer-specific HRQOL, depressive symptomatology, state anxiety, pain, and nausea.
Conclusions: Reflexology may be added to existing evidence-based supportive care to improve HRQOL for patients with advanced-stage breast cancer during chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy.
Implications for nursing: Reflexology can be recommended for safety and usefulness in relieving dyspnea and enhancing functional status among women with advanced-stage breast cancer.