Water therapies (hydrotherapy, balneotherapy or aqua therapy) for patients with cancer: a systematic review.
Summary: This review of the literature examined the use of water therapies for the treatment of patients with cancer.
Conclusion: The effectiveness of water therapies for the treatment of patients with cancer could not be determined.
Background: Water therapies as hydrotherapy, balneotherapy or aqua therapy are often used in the relief of disease- and treatment-associated symptoms of cancer patients. Yet, a systematic review for the evidence of water therapy including all cancer entities has not been conducted to date.
Objective: Oncological patients often suffer from symptoms which in patients with other diseases are successfully treated with water therapy. We want to gather more information about the benefits and risks of water therapy for cancer patients.
Methods: In May 2020, a systematic search was conducted searching five electronic databases (Embase, Cochrane, PsychInfo, CINAHL and PubMed) to find studies concerning the use, effectiveness and potential harm of water therapy on cancer patients.
Results: Of 3165 search results, 10 publications concerning 12 studies with 430 patients were included in this systematic review. The patients treated with water therapy were mainly diagnosed with breast cancer. The therapy concepts included aqua lymphatic therapy, aquatic exercises, foot bathes and whole-body bathes. Outcomes were state of lymphedema, quality of life, fatigue, BMI, vital parameters, anxiety and pain. The quality of the studies was assessed with the AMSTAR2-instrument, the SIGN-checklist and the IHE-Instruments. The studies had moderate quality and reported heterogeneous results. Some studies reported significantly improved quality of life, extent of lymphedema, neck and shoulder pain, fatigue and BMI while other studies did not find any changes concerning these endpoints.
Conclusions: Due to the very heterogeneous results and methodical limitations of the included studies, a clear statement regarding the effectiveness of water therapy on cancer patients is not possible.