Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate patient characteristics to predict selection and maintenance of a complementary therapy and the feasibility of a randomized clinical trial (RCT) of complementary therapies.
Design: Quasi-experimental, exploratory study, unblinded and nonrandomized.
Setting: A comprehensive cancer center in Michigan.
Sample: 96 patients undergoing chemotherapy, predominantly Caucasian women.
Methods: Consenting patients with caregivers could choose a reflexology, guided imagery, guided imagery plus reflexology, or interview-only group. Patients without caregivers were restricted to guided imagery or interview-only groups. Data on demographics, depression, anxiety, and functional status were collected using established instruments.
Main Research Variables: Quality of life (QOL) and patient characteristics in relation to complementary therapy choice.
Findings: Patients who chose a complementary therapy rather than an interview only tended to be older and in worse health and had higher percentages of lung cancer, late-stage cancers, higher anxiety, depressive symptoms, and physical limitations at baseline. Patients lost from the guided imagery and guided imagery plus reflexology groups had greater symptom severity, depressive symptoms and anxiety, and worse physical and emotional well-being than those lost from the reflexology group.
Conclusions: Patient characteristics influence choice of complementary therapies, highlighting the need for RCTs to evaluate the true effect of complementary therapies on the QOL of patients with cancer. Further research on complementary therapies can help healthcare providers identify patients who are likely to benefit most by addressing nursing-sensitive outcomes.
Implications for Nursing: An RCT of reflexology as a single therapy for females with breast cancer is most feasible compared to other complementary therapies.