Not surprisingly, many individuals diagnosed with cancer experience significant psychological distress. Relieving these feelings is very important. Psychological distress has a profound negative impact on quality of life, and it also has a profound negative impact on hard cancer outcomes such as survival. Happy, positive-thinking cancer patients live longer, do better, and have a much better chance of going into remission- permanently.
Of course, just telling cancer patients to be happy is completely ineffective. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to help patients improve their mental outlook. An interesting study published several years ago reported that aromatherapy/massage was almost as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing depression and relieving anxiety in cancer patients.
The sense of smell is an ancient sense. Unlike our other senses, the sense of smell directly activates parts of the brain without any conscious input or processing required. Smells we can’t even consciously detect can re-set our menstrual cycles and cause us to fall in love. Most people have had the experience of powerful emotions or strong memories being triggered by a lingering scent. It is, therefore, not surprising that smells can be used to alter brain function and moods.
Some cancer centers in the UK have responded by offering aromatherapy to patients. Aromasticks can be used to relieve nausea, reduce anxiety, and help patients sleep better. Aromatherapy is well-advanced in the UK, with around 40% of cancer patients reporting its use. Doctors and nurses support it and often provide the aromasticks or advice about the use of essential oils for symptom relief.
Quality of Life and Health
It is clear that aromatherapy can help improve quality of life in cancer patients. It relieves stress, reduces anxiety, and helps patients deal with symptoms. It also seems to improve health. For example, colorectal cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who received aromatherapy experienced measurable improvements in immune function.
When simply inhaled or used lightly in topical applications, essential oils are generally quite safe. The only adverse events associated with aromatherapy involve patients who ingest the oils or who apply very large quantities of the oils to their skin, neither of which is a standard practice in aromatherapy. Occasionally, a patient will experience an allergic reaction to a particular essential oil.
If you’ve been wondering what to get as a gift for a friend or family member who is fighting cancer, now you know. A set of essential oils or some aromasticks will do far more good than yet another fruit basket or potted plant.
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