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Use of reflexology in managing lymphoedema

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CPsychol Philip Harris, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Start date: April 2013
Duration: 12 months
Funded amount: £12,263

The aim of this project is to find out whether reflexology treatments can benefit people who develop secondary lymphoedema (excess fluid in the tissues) of the arm following their treatment for breast cancer.

Dr Philip HarrisThe reflexology treatment involves pressure being applied to specific areas of the feet by a qualified and experienced practitioner using thumb, finger and hand techniques. An exploratory study with six participants from a South Wales cancer-care centre showed reductions in arm volume and increases in their quality of life after receiving reflexology.

The proposed project will repeat the exploratory one with a larger group of 30 participants to see if similar improvements occur. The participants will be volunteers from two cancer-care organisations in South Wales, a further 10 participants will be recruited to Cardiff Met's Complementary Therapies Clinic. The reflexology treatments will be given by qualified practitioners. The measurements of arm volumes and information about quality of life will be collected by an independent researcher.

Approval for the project will be obtained from the NHS South Wales Ethics Committee Panel. A research advisory group will be set up to inform and help guide the research process. The advisory group will consist of people who have survived breast cancer and have experienced lymphoedema, representatives from the cancer-care centres, and the research project team. If the project shows that the participants benefit from the reflexology treatments then action will be taken to increase the availability of the treatments. A proposal for a larger and more controlled study to test the benefits will be prepared and submitted for funding.

CPsychol Philip Harris, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Judith Whatley, Cardiff Metropolitan University