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Aromatherapy, Foot Reflexology Proving Effective In Helping Side Effects Of Cancer Treatments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Medical treatments for cancer are becoming increasingly effective. But those treatments often come with side effects that cause both physical and psychological issues.

Jaimee Bible had already been through six weeks of chemotherapy and several radiation treatments before having something called brachytherapy to treat her cervical cancer.

"The anxiety and stress level was pretty high leading up into that very first brachytherapy session," she said.

Brachytherapy uses radioactive seed implants to target a tumor from inside the body. It's an effective but invasive therapy that can be uncomfortable and painful.

"Patients who receive brachytherapy frequently have to receive pain medications and sometimes anxiety medications to help them get through those treatments," said Lisa Blackburn of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center

A recent study aimed at making treatment less stressful for cancer patients wasn't a pill or procedure, but an integrative approach. Brachtherapy patients received aromatherapy with essential oils and thirty minutes of foot reflexology.

"The experienced reflexologist actually uses pressure points in the foot to treat specific symptoms and to generally relax the patient," Blackburn said.

The results were astounding, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported. Patient-reported pain was cut by more than half, and they required 40 percent less pain medication to manage it.

"It's kind of a win-win," Blackburn said. "You know, patients may get effect from these, and in our study they certainly have so far, they synergize the effect of the medication and decrease their pain and anxiety with little or no side effects."

The goal is to expand this approach to patients experiencing pain or anxiety from other conditions. Better yet, aromatherapy and reflexology could reduce the amount of opiate pain medication patients need.

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