Aromatherapy for Cancer Patients

Aromatherapy for Cancer Patients

Aromatherapy for Cancer Patients

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is an estimated 1,735,350 people who will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States alone just in the year 2018. ( The majority of these newly diagnosed patients will move forward with treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Most patients will likely receive at least one, or a combination of multiple treatments. Not only does having cancer and the appropriate treatments diminish the overall health of the patient but it takes an enormous toll on the mental well-being as well. Patients enter the hospital anxious and overwhelmed with the amount of information they are receiving about their care, and the new reality of the treatments they will have to go through.

Being a Radiation Therapist and treating cancer patients on a daily basis has shown me that sometimes in order to deliver the best care to the patient there needs to be a whole mind body experience. Patients who are anxious and nervous throughout the whole course of treatment will most likely have issues aligning on the machine since they could be extremely tense, versus someone who is not anxious and is completely relaxed. Patients also experience side effects from the radiation and it is much easier for someone who has a positive healthy mental status to handle.

Aromatherapy in conjunction with other cancer treatments can be tremendously beneficial for the patient’s mind and body experience. Aromatherapy can benefit the patient by reducing their anxiety, relieving stress, improving sleep, and reducing pain and fatigue. It can increase their overall mental wellbeing while they allow their body to focus on eliminating cancer. There have been some studies out there that show these benefits. A clinical trial performed by Chang in 2008 studied a group of 58 cancer patients who were hospitalized. Half of the patients received a 5-minute hand massage for 7 days with an aromatherapy blend, the other half received the hand massage just using a carrier oil. The results showed how the patients with the aromatherapy blend had a significant difference in their pain level and depression. Another clinical trial by Wilkinson in 2007 shows similar results after offering cancer patients of all stages a weekly aromatherapy massage while other patients just received the standard care. This trial was to show the effects of complimentary care during the patient’s treatment. The results for this study was that it didn’t eliminate the patients long term anxiety and depression, but it had improved the patients overall wellbeing for up to two weeks post intervention.

Just these two cases shows how beneficial aromatherapy can be to the patients cancer experience. By reducing mental stress and anxiety it can allow your body to solely focus on becoming healthy and cancer free. It seems that there hasn’t been much focus on everyday use of aromatherapy for cancer patients, but it is definitely a topic that needs to be implemented more as a complimentary care to all.

I am a Radiation Therapist who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. As a Radiation Therapist I treat cancer patients at all stages of disease. It can be a stressful job but extremely rewarding! To relieve the stress of my daily job I try to do yoga, and see my family and friends as much as I can. This has also led me to my interest in Aromatherapy and finding different ways to help myself and others.


Boehm K, Büssing A, Ostermann T. Aromatherapy as an Adjuvant Treatment in Cancer Care — A Descriptive Systematic Review. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines. 2012;9(4):503-518.

Chang, S Y. “[Effects of Aroma Hand Massage on Pain, State Anxiety and Depression in Hospice Patients with Terminal Cancer].” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2008,

Wilkinson, S “[Effectiveness o Aromatherapy Massage in the Management of Anxiety and Depression in Patients with cancer: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial]” Journal of Clinical Oncology., UK. Fen. 2007,

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