Complementary Therapies for Oncology patients

Complementary Therapy is the umbrella term for a range of therapies used alongside conventional medicine. Oncology Complementary Therapies can play a vital role in enhancing a patient’s quality of life during their chemotherapy treatments. Patients may experience treatment specific symptoms and side effects such as; anxiety, nausea, low mood, fatigue and sleep disturbances, as well as joint and muscle pain.

Soft tissue Massage Therapy
Soft tissue massage can be used as part of a supportive care plan to improve a patient’s quality of life, as well as reduce anxiety and depression. Trials have shown an improvement in immune and neuroendocrine function following massage therapy with immediate effects seen in reducing symptoms of depression and anger. The longer term effects continued to show a positive impact on mood, as well as increased dopamine and serotonin levels.

Reflexology
This very calming therapy is based on the principles that certain reflex points on the hands and feet correspond to other areas of the body. When manipulated with gentle pressure these points stimulate the flow of energy throughout the body, which can help relieve minor pain, congestion, stress and anxiety.

Reflexology is a popular therapy with our patients as it is very non-invasive, working on only the hands or feet. Studies have shown that the use of reflexology can reduce symptoms of chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy and symptom distress. Many patients also use reflexology as a distraction therapy when scalp cooling.

Indian Head Massage
This therapy involves the practitioner using their hands to manipulate and gently knead the soft tissues and muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, neck and head. Patients who choose this therapy will benefit from tension release of neck and shoulders as well as to alleviate discomfort of headaches.

Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy massage provides comfort and relaxation for patients at any stage of their cancer journey. Aromatherapy is defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils, which are the aromatic essence of a plant.

The essential oil can be extracted from the flowers, leaves, seeds, bark and fruit rind. The immediate effect of this is provided primarily through the inhalation; the patient is comforted by the aroma. For an aromatherapy massage the essential oils will be diluted by the appropriate base cream, lotion or fixed oil, such are sweet almond or jojoba oil.

Oncology patients may benefit from aromatherapy massage to help reduce symptoms of anxiety, nausea, sleep disturbances, general aches and pains as well as fatigue.

When used for inhalation lavender essential oil works as a distraction therapy. It is effective when used to counteract the anxieties related to procedural pain patient’s experience when having their Central Venous Port accessed. Lavender, alongside peppermint and camomile, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on the quality of sleep, reduce drowsiness, improve appetite and reduce anxiety.

Tips to introduce Aromatherapy into your self-care routine at home:

The Complementary Therapist at the LOC have 20 years of combined experience of working in the field of oncology and are able to support the specific needs of each individual following a cancer diagnosis, through treatment and beyond. We offer therapy sessions on the treatment suite, or we have recently launched an outpatient service on a Thursday at our Sydney Street facility.

For more information, or to book an appointment, please call 0207 317 2628 or email supportiveservices@theloc.com.

References:
1. https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/breast-cancer-patients-have-improved-immune-and-neuroendocrine-fu
2. https://www.bmj.com/content/330/7493/702
3. https://synapse.koreamed.org/DOIx.php?id=10.5388/aon.2012.12.4.305
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=29199999
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=28640576