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Aromatherapy & Cancer

“Aromatherapy has been used to treat a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, allergies and arthritis. Though much of the belief in aromatherapy's advantages is based on anecdotal evidence, aromatherapy is garnering more interest from the medical community as an effective, safe treatment option. The Mayo Clinic recommends the use of some types of aromatherapy for patients going through cancer treatments to deal with nausea, pain and stress.”

 

The recent Nursing Times survey of nurses relating to complementary medicine found overwhelmingly that aromatherapy massage is the most popular form of complementary therapy employed by by members of the nursing profession(1) . This is understandably so as more and more research is revealing that aromatherapy essential oils together with remedial massage offer demonstrable therapeutic benefits for many patients requiring palliative care including alleviating anxiety in hospital patients (2), chronic tension headaches (3) and cancer pain(4), as well as reducing stress perceived by patients in intensive care units(5).

 

However, the most recent investigation into the benefits of aromatherapy massage in palliative care was undertaken by the Centre for the Study of Complementary Medicine at Countess Mountbatten House who conducted an audit into the effects of aromatherapy massage on cancer patients in palliative and terminal care(7).

 

Consent to the proposed treatment was obtained from the consultant medical staff and the patients themselves. Individual patients were referred for the therapy either to aid relaxation or because they were in pain, anxious or depressed.

 

Aromatherapy essential oils were specifically selected by a trained therapist for each individual patient's needs and diluted to half normal strength, because of fears that the aromas may have been overpowering for terminally ill patients. The most frequently used oils were lavender, marjoram and chamomile.

 

Throughout the period of the study which commenced in January 1993 for a period of six months, the therapist was available for treatment for four hours on a weekly basis and administered the treatment in the ward, with patients either in their beds or sitting at their bedside, whichever was deemed to be the most comfortable by the patient.

 

Sixty nine patients ( 42 female and 27 male) participated in the study and received aromatherapy massage during their stay at Countess Mountbatten House. None of the patients had previously experienced hands-on massage, and so to help them adapt to the treatment , music which had been especially composed for relaxation was played throughout each session. After each session, the patients were asked to complete a questionnaire to evaluate the perceived benefits of the therapy.

 

The results revealed that eighty one per cent stated that they either felt 'better' or 'very relaxed' after the treatment. Sixty two per cent of the patients reported that the benefits lasted for several hours and a further twenty five per cent stated that the benefits lasted for more than a day. A majority of eighty one per cent said that they would like to receive aromatherapy massage more than once a week, and the same number of patients said that they found the relaxation music which accompanied the treatment to be helpful.

 

The researchers themselves confessed that it is "difficult to provide substantive data from this audit, because of limited patient availability", and it is also uncertain whether the benefits were the result of (i) the patient being given individual attention and care for a period of time, (ii) talking with the therapist (iii) the effects of touch and massage, (iv) the effects of the aromatherapy essential oils or (v) the effects of the relaxation music. To identify the exact catalyst(s) from which benefit was derived, further, more controlled studies will need to be carried out. However, there is no doubt that the findings of this initial study are very encouraging and indicate that most of the patients who received the aromatherapy massage in this setting benefited from the treatment they received.

 

The report went on to conclude that the patients "show immense courage in coming to terms with their illness, and the stresses and strains of its many side-effects, whilst still retaining their dignity and pride. For these patients, in particular, aromatherapy massage is of great value."

 

The team leaders at Countess Mountbatten House agreed with this sentiment and, after monitoring the results of the study, stated that they would continue to offer aromatherapy massage to patients.
(1) Trevelyan J. A True Complement? Nursing Times 1996; 92: 5, 42-43.
(2) Groer M; Mozingo J; Droppleman P; Davis M; Jolly ML; Boynton M; Davis K; Kay S. Measures of salivary secretory immunoglobulin A and state anxiety after a nursing back rub. Appl Nurs Res
(2) (UNITED STATES) Feb 1994, 7;1: p2-6
Puustjarvi K; Airaksinen O; Pontinen PJ. The effects of massage in patients with chronic tension headache. Acupuncture & Electro-therapeutics Research (UNITED STATES) 1990, 15;2 :159-62.
(3) Ferrell-Tory A.T., Glick O.J. The use of therapeutic massage as a nursing intervention to modify anxiety and the perception of cancer pain. Cancer Nursing 1993; 16:2: 93-101
(4) Dunn C, Sleep J, Collett D. Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and rest in an intensive care unit. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 1995; 21(1):34-40.
(6) B. Evans. An audit into the effects of aromatherapy massage and the cancer patient in palliative and terminal care. Complementary Therapies in Medicine (1995) 3, 239-241

 

A recent investigation into the benefits of aromatherapy massage in palliative care was undertaken by the Centre for the Study of Complementary Medicine at Countess Mountbatten House who conducted an audit into the effects of aromatherapy massage on cancer patients in palliative and terminal care. Consent to the proposed treatment was obtained from the consultant medical staff and the patients themselves. Individual patients were referred for the therapy either to aid relaxation or because they were in pain, anxious or depressed.

 

Aromatherapy essential oils were specifically selected by a trained therapist for each individual patient's needs and diluted to half normal strength, because of fears that the aromas may have been overpowering for terminally ill patients. The most frequently used oils were lavender, marjoram and chamomile.

 

Sixty nine patients ( 42 female and 27 male) participated in the study and the results revealed that eighty one per cent stated that they either felt 'better' or 'very relaxed' after the treatment. Sixty two per cent of the patients reported that the benefits lasted for several hours and a further twenty five per cent stated that the benefits lasted for more than a day. A majority of eighty one per cent said that they would like to receive aromatherapy massage more than once a week, and the same number of patients said that they found the relaxation music which accompanied the treatment to be helpful.

 

The team leaders at Countess Mountbatten House were so impressed with these results that they stated they would continue to offer aromatherapy massage to patients.

 

B. Evans. An audit into the effects of aromatherapy massage and the cancer patient in palliative and terminal care. Complementary Therapies in Medicine (1995) 3, 239-241

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Delicia wrote:
Massage Therapy can be a profitable creear however it can take years to build a successful practice. You must really like people and be able to separate yourself from others emotions (like a nurse or a doctor). Working in a spa can afford you a steady income and benefits but not the same income as private practice. What you can charge for a massage varies greatly by town/city/state/region.It is a very strenuously job, and most people only stay in the field for 5-8 years due to burnout or injury.I would recommend that if you are interested that find out if any massage schools in your area hold discovery workshops in which you get a one-day crash course.I love my creear and don’t regret entering it at all, but I would recommend that you look into it seriously before you make the schooling commitment.

Thu, November 22, 2012 @ 7:48 AM

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