Children and adolescents with cancer are at risk of experiencing distress in relation to their cancer diagnosis, treatment and treatment-related procedures. Complementary therapies such as reflexology may be used to help alleviate distressing symptoms; however, there is a dearth of research regarding the experience of reflexology from the perspective of children/adolescents with cancer and/or the parents/guardians of those who have received these treatments. Objective: To ascertain the perceptions of parents/guardians regarding their child/adolescent’s experience of reflexology or non-specific foot massage.
Children and adolescents aged between 7 and 18 years attending a national children’s hospital for cancer treatment were invited to participate in a randomised controlled trial using a Mixed Between Group Repeated Measures design following receipt of ethical approval from the hospital’s Research Ethics Committee. In total, 75 children/adolescents either consented or assented to take part in the study. Of these, 39 were randomized to the intervention group (reflexology) and 36 to the control group (non-specific foot massage). Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with parents/guardians using an interview guide. Interviews were analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis.
The overarching theme which emerged across the interviews was participants’ perceptions of the foot treatments in general as a means of supporting the child during treatment for cancer. This central theme is discussed under a number of subthemes, namely psychological wellbeing, perceived physiological impact, time and space, a safe relationship and service development.
The parents/guardians views regarding the foot treatments in general were consistently positive. The implications of the study findings and the future delivery of the complementary therapy service will be discussed.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Childhood Cancer Foundation.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.