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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effects of relaxation on symptom distress and personal control experienced by adults with cancer Yearwood-Dance, Linda


The use of behavioral therapies, such as relaxation therapy, is well documented in the literature as an intervention which may control some of the symptoms and symptom distress associated with the use of chemotherapy within the experience of cancer. However, over 50% of individuals with cancer are also treated with radiation therapy, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy. Individuals being treated with radiation therapy experience symptoms and related distress similar to those associated with chemotherapy as well as a loss of personal control. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of relaxation therapy on symptom distress and personal control as perceived by adults receiving abdominal/pelvic external radiation treatment for a diagnosis of cancer. A quasiexperimental design, the nonequivalent control-group, was used to achieve the purpose of this study. It was hypothesized that the daily use of relaxation therapy by individuals receiving radiation therapy would decrease the amount of symptom distress and increase the amount of personal control perceived. The sample consisted of twenty eight individuals, fourteen in the control group and fourteen in the intervention group. Data were gathered by interview, two sets of questionnaires, and written diaries. The interview was done before the participants began their radiation treatment. The questionnaires were also completed at this time and then again three weeks after the treatment began. A diary was kept by those in the intervention group who were also taught a specific relaxation technique and asked to record the number of times they used the technique and any comments. To answer the two hypotheses, summary statistics were used. The results indicated that individuals who used relaxation therapy perceived a decreased amount of symptom distress than those in the control group. The Mann-Whitney U Test indicated that this difference was at the .05 level of significance. On this basis the first hypothesis was accepted. The results also indicated that there was no significant difference between the groups in the amount of perceived personal control. On this basis, the second hypothesis was not accepted. A recommendation based on this research study was for nurses to become knowledgeable in the use of relaxation techniques. Further research to better understand the cancer experience in relation to personal control was also recommended to enable nurses to provide appropriate and effective care to these individuals.

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