Cancer Care


Cancer Care and Reflexology Research


Reflexology has been found through research to benefit in many ways those experiencing cancer.

First, reflexology provides a simple technique for comforting touch. Reflexology’s human to human, non-invasive touch creates an opportunity for those with cancer to receive caring support:

  • For both a loved one with cancer and a family member seeking to help receive emotional benefits.
  • For a concerned care giver or health profession, a reflexology interlude provides a hands-on interaction as well as researched benefits resulting in enhanced patient satisfaction.


Next, research shows that cancer patients who receive reflexology work experienced significant improvements:

  • lessened pain• lessened anxiety• reduced nausea and vomiting
  • lowered fatigue
  • improvements in quality of life
  • bettered mood
  • improvements in quality of sleep, stress, depression, foot fatigue, morale and vital signs.


Research shows that cancer patients who receive reflexology work experienced significant improvements in management of symptoms, chemotherapy, post-operatively and palliative care.

Management of symptoms

Reflexology helps to lessen pain, anxiety, stress, nausea and depression.

Single Reflexology Session

  • A 30-minute partner-delivered reflexology session provided to metastic cancer patients demon- strated a significant decrease in pain intensity (37%) and anxiety (62%).
  • One 30-minute reflexology session significantly decreased anxiety for breast and lung cancer patients receiving cancer care as well as pain for breast cancer patients.
  • One reflexology session lessened the pain, nausea, stress, anxiety and depression as well as increased feelings of well-being and peacefulness for hospitalized cancer care patients.
  • Hospitalized breast cancer, lung cancer, or Hodgkin lymphoma cancer patients experienced a significant and immediate effect on perceptions of pain, nausea and relaxation following a 10 to 15 minute reflexology session.
  • Hospitalized breast and lung cancer patients who received a 30- minute session experienced significantly less anxiety with the breast cancer patients showing a significant decrease in pain.


Series of Reflexology Sessions

  • Following each of two sessions a positive immediate reduction in pain was realized for patients with metastic cancer. Since no effect was perceived after 3 hours, re-application is suggested at 3 hours.
  • Cancer patients in reported by patients in an inpatient cancer oncology program who received reflexology reported less pain, nausea, stress, anxiety, and depression as well as increased feelings of well-being and peacefulness.Chemotherapy


Reflexology aids in decreasing of nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fatigue and depression for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Single Reflexology Session

  • A single 30 minute hand reflexology session resulted in lower levels of nausea, retching and vomiting for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
  • A single session of reflexology reduced the anxiety of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy— 7.9 points on the state-anxiety scale compared to 0.8 in the control group.
  • A single session of reflexology made significant changes in vital signs, general fatigue, mood and foot fatigue for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.


Series of Reflexology Sessions

  • Breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experienced a statistically significant decrease in nausea, vomiting and fatigue following four 40-minute reflexology sessions.
  • 10-minute hand reflexology sessions each day for five consecutive days significantly lowered the degree of fatigue, anxiety and mood state of cancer patients receiving radiotherapy
  • A 30-minute session before chemotherapy for 4 days resulted in significantly lower depression and anxiety for hospitalized patients with hematological malignancies receiving chemotherapy.
  • 20 to 30 minutes three times daily of the Japanese tradition of bamboo stepping significantly reduced nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy for 62.5% and effective for 28%.
  • 10 minute hand reflexology sessions 5 times over 3 days improved physiological and emotional measures for patients receiving dialysis and chemotherapy.
  • Reflexology sessions applied each day for 3 days significantly lowered the state anxiety and dis- comfort of hospitalized ovarian cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
  • 5 to 15 minute reflexology sessions in the infusion room 2 days a week met goals of increasing comfort and relaxation for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy in an outpatient program.


Post-operative care

Reflexology lessens pain and anxiety.

Single Reflexology Session

  • A 30-minute reflexology session following surgery reduced pain and anxiety for mastectomy patients.


Series of reflexology sessions

  • Patients with gastric and liver cancer who received reflexology for 20 minutes on days 2, 3 and 4 after surgery reported less pain and anxiety in addition to less use of analgesia
  • Weekly sessions for 8 weeks following surgery improved the quality of life for early breast cancer patients.


Palliative/hospice care

Single Reflexology Session

  • Reflexology helps cancer patients in palliative and hospice care with both physical and emotional symptoms.
  • A 40-minute reflexology session was perceived to benefit quality of life (appearance, appetite, breathing, communication (doctors), communication (family), communication (nurses), concentration, constipation, diarrhoea, fear of future, isolation, micturition, mobility, mood, nausea, pain, sleep and tiredness by all palliative patients.


Series of reflexology sessions

  • Morale for end of life care patients was boosted when family members provided reflexology. “Something was being done for them. Patients expressed feelings of being less abandoned and the families expressed satisfaction at seeing that something painless existed that could aid their relative.”
  • Reflexology was effective for reducing cancer pain and improving quality of sleep
  • Four to six reflexology sessions were evaluated by palliative care cancer patients as providing relaxation, relief from tension and anxiety, feelings of comfort and improved well-being.
  • Effective for reducing cancer pain and improving quality of sleep


Reflexology by a reflexology-trained family member at home


The potential use of reflexology by a reflexology-trained family member at home has many values:

  • alleviation of pain, nausea and/or anxiety as it is being experience
  • opportunities for patient and family member for “discussion and communication about pain assessment and decisions, mutual goal- setting, and control of pain relief strategies.
  • opportunity to take action for the “… many patients (who) desire to take more control of and responsibility for their care.”
  • opportunity for patient and family member to receive the emotional benefits of caring support


Patient satisfaction is increased when facilities utilize reflexology in hospital-based inpatient, hospital-based outpatient, or palliative care- based programs. 

Implications of reflexology use for cancer patients, support group members, cancer care staff and cancer care facilities

Research finds reflexology to be an effective nursing intervention:

  • effective for symptoms that are not easily treated by pharmacological modalities alone.
  • easy accessibility, non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment • helps alleviate pain, anxiety, nausea and other symptoms
  • a simple technique for human touch


Medical Applications of Reflexology: Findings in Research about Post- operative Care, Maternity Care, and Cancer Care by Barbara and Kevin Kunz provides research information for cancer patients, loved ones and researchers wanting full information about reflexology use with cancer care. Included is how detailed information and analysis from cancer care studies around the world.

For how-to instructions for reflexology techniques with full color photos and illustrations, see Complete Reflexology for Life by Barbara and Kevin Kunz.