Skip to main content

17-01-2010 | Oncology | Article

Reflexology improves post-breast surgery quality of life


Free abstract

MedWire News: Reflexology and massage have significant positive effects on the quality of life (QoL) of women who have undergone surgery for early breast cancer, UK researchers report.

“In an attempt to minimize morbidity and enhance their QoL, many women with breast cancer turn to complementary or alternative medicines (CAM) and use of such interventions amongst cancer patients in general is widespread,” remark Donald Sharp (University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull) and colleagues.

To evaluate the effects of reflexology on QoL in women with early breast cancer, Sharp and team conducted a randomized controlled trial. At 6 weeks after -breast surgery, they randomly assigned 183 women to self-initiated support (SIS), SIS plus reflexology, or SIS plus scalp massage, which acted as a control for physical and social contact. Reflexology and massage comprised eight sessions at weekly intervals.

At 18 weeks post-surgery, massage, but not reflexology, was significantly better than SIS alone on the Trial Outcome Index (TOI) of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT-B) – breast cancer version, indicating a better QoL among massage patients.

Mood rating scale scores revealed that massage and reflexology patients were significantly more relaxed than those assigned to SIS alone. Massage patients were also more easy-going than either reflexology or SIS patients.

At 24 weeks post surgery, reflexology, but not massage, patients were significantly more relaxed and had a significantly better TOI than SIS patients. There were no significant differences between reflexology and massage.

Anxiety and depression did not differ between any of the groups when assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

“When compared with SIS, reflexology and massage have statistically significant, and, for reflexology, clinically worthwhile, effects on QoL following surgery for early breast carcinoma,” conclude Sharp and team in the European Journal of Cancer.

They add that reflexology can therefore be considered an evidence-based complementary intervention for improving the QoL of women with early breast cancer, while the effects of scalp massage warrant further investigation.

“The present study further demonstrates that it is feasible to evaluate CAM using randomized controlled trial methodology employing conventional, well-validated outcome measures,” the researchers note.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Laura Dean

Related topics