Development of an aromatherapy service at a Cancer Centre.


Kite SM, Maher EJ, Anderson K




Palliat Med


The aromatherapy service at the Cancer Support and Information Centre (CSIC) of this regional Cancer Centre has been continually assessed since its inception in 1993. New methods of assessing complementary therapies, based on the 'therapy-as-practised', have been explored. The present study evaluates the service following changes made after an initial pilot. The professional aromatherapist developed an evaluation tool, and formal questionnaires were limited to the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). HADS was completed before and after a course of six aromatherapy sessions. Of 89 patients referred, 58 patients completed the six sessions. Referrals were made by health professionals working in the Cancer Centre and in the CSIC. The majority of patients were female with breast cancer and were receiving radical oncological treatment. Tension, stress and anxiety/fear were the most common reasons for referral, and this was reflected in high initial HADS scores. There were significant improvements in HADS scores in the 58 patients completing the course (mean anxiety, depression, and combined scores dropped from 8.9 to 6.2 6.1 to 4.0 and 15.0 to 10.2, respectively, P < 0.001). Fifty per cent or more of the sample reported a significant improvement in the eight most commonly assessed symptoms. The therapist was initially cautious about using questionnaires, but she gained confidence in using HADS as an assessment tool. The areas covered by her own evaluation tools were broadly comparable to established instruments such as the EORTC QLQ-C30. We conclude that aromatherapy massage has a role in reducing psychological distress, and improving symptom control in cancer patients. Further service evaluation is needed to promote appropriate referral and effective planning of treatment, and to justify cost. Given the multifaceted nature of complementary therapies, the need to develop new research methodologies is acknowledged.