Purpose: An evidenced-based project to introduce aromatherapy with the use of essential oils for oncology/palliative care patients to improve symptoms associated with cancer treatment and end-of-life.
Background: Aromatherapy reduces the cancer patients’ complications, such as sleep disorders, nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, and depression (Keyhanmehr et al, 2018). Lavender, peppermint, and orange are common essential oils that can help support patients with cancer who experience
insomnia, nausea, and anxiety (Reis and Jones, 2017). Palliative care research indicates that more conventional interventions, such as medications, do not always equate to a higher quality of life but often decrease the quality of life due to unnecessary interventions that cause unwanted side effects (Marchand, 2014). It is important to give patients as many choices as possible to treat their symptoms without creating new problems (Marchand, 2014).
Methods: A six-month trial was conducted on the inpatient cancer/palliative care unit and 104 patients filled out a comment card. During the trial, lavender, peppermint, frankincense, lemon, orange, and eucalyptus were used. Patients were educated on the benefits of aromatherapy and were offered samples of their choosing. Patients were given the choice of inhalation or the use of a diffuser.
Results: Of the 104 patients that filled out a comment card 97 stated they would use it again, and 51% reported an increase in well-being, 15.8% improved sleep, 10.5% reduced anxiety, 8.3% reduced depression, 7.5% improved congestion, 3.8% improved pain, and 3% reduced nausea. After the conclusion of the trial, aromatherapy is a permanent intervention for cancer and palliative care patients. The program also is being utilized in the outpatient oncology clinic, infusion clinic, and inpatient rehabilitation unit, and will eventually be offered to all departments providing patient care.
Conclusions: Aromatherapy is a viable intervention for improving various symptoms and is used effectively with patients with cancer primarily as supportive care (Aromatherapy and Essential Oils [PDQ®]: Health Professional Version, 2018). Oncology nurses can provide aromatherapy safely, inexpensively, and with minimal training, as an effective therapy in lessening many symptoms that cancer and end of life patients experience (Blackburn et al, 2017).