Clinical Topics & News

The Use of Aromatherapy as a Complementary Alternative Medicine in the Management of Cancer-Related Pain



To identify the effectiveness of aromatherapy as an adjunct in improving pain and overall sense of well-being among patients with cancer receiving hospice care.


There is limited data available on the use of aromatherapy for pain management among patients with cancer receiving end-of-life care. This project identifies the benefits of aromatherapy in a population where it was not previously evaluated.


Patients with cancer who were admitted to the hospice unit of a local hospital within a large healthcare system for at least 24 hours and taking opioids for neoplasm related pain at least once a day were included in the study. Patients with allergy to essential oils, and those suffering from allergic rhinitis and common cold, and a history of asthma were excluded. Patients who were unable to consent for study participation were also excluded.

Data Analysis

Retrospective chart analysis and surveys were used to collect the data. Univariate descriptive statistics were used for patient characteristics. A Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was used to determine opioid use before and after aromatherapy. The t test was used to compare pain scores before and after aromatherapy. A 5-point Likert scale was used to evaluate how soothing the participants found the treatment to be. The Numeric Pain Intensity Scale was used for pain scores.


There was a total of 40 participants, all of whom were male with an average age of 69 years. Pain scores before and after treatment were found to be statistically significant at an average of 5.15/10 vs 3.68/10, respectively. On a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the most soothing, there was an average rating of 3.87 among participants. There was not a statistically significant decline in opioid use from pre-treatment to post-treatment. Higher pain scores before intervention were associated with rating the lotion as more soothing.


The use of aromatherapy as a complement to opioids for cancer-related pain in the end-of-life was associated with an increase sense of well-being, resulted in lower pain scores and seems to have subjective comfort merit.


This study shows the potential benefits of using aromatherapy in end-of-life care among patients with cancer.

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