Objective: To evaluate the effects of reflexology treatment on quality of life, sleep disturbances, and fatigue in breast cancer patients during radiation therapy.
Methods/subjects: A total of 72 women with breast cancer (stages 1-3) scheduled for radiation therapy were recruited.
Design: Women were allocated upon their preference either to the group receiving reflexology treatments once a week concurrently with radiotherapy and continued for 10 weeks or to the control group (usual care).
Outcome measures: The Lee Fatigue Scale, General Sleep Disturbance Scale, and Multidimensional Quality of Life Scale Cancer were completed by each patient in both arms at the beginning of the radiation treatment, after 5 weeks, and after 10 weeks of reflexology treatment.
Results: The final analysis included 58 women. The reflexology treated group demonstrated statistically significant lower levels of fatigue after 5 weeks of radiation therapy (p < 0.001), compared to the control group. It was also detected that although the quality of life in the control group deteriorated after 5 and 10 weeks of radiation therapy (p < 0.01 and p < 0.05, respectively), it was preserved in the reflexology group, which also demonstrated a significant improvement in the quality of sleep after 10 weeks of radiation treatment (p < 0.05). Similar patterns were obtained in the assessment of the pain levels experienced by the patients.
Conclusions: The results of the present study indicate that reflexology may have a positive effect on fatigue, quality of sleep, pain, and quality of life in breast cancer patients during radiation therapy. Reflexology prevented the decline in quality of life and significantly ameliorated the fatigue and quality of sleep of these patients. An encouraging trend was also noted in amelioration of pain levels.
Keywords: breast cancer; fatigue; radiation therapy; reflexology.