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Cancer Patients Benefit from Massage

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by Diana Khoury

Many of us know someone whose life has been affected by cancer. A cancer diagnosis can produce feelings of anxiety, doubt, confusion, guilt, fear and depression in the patient.1
A complicated diagnosis paired with an extensive course of treatment can be overwhelming to consider. Cancer treatment encompasses physical, emotional, psychological and social elements. Establishing a supportive care team before, during and after cancer treatment is imperative to achieving a positive outcome.


Massage has been shown to help relieve cancer symptoms and reduce the side effects of treatment. Although massage cannot stop the growth or progression of cancer, a PubMed abstract states, “Therapeutic massage as a cancer pain intervention appears to be safe and effective. Patients who receive massage have less procedural pain, nausea, and anxiety and report improved quality of life… Massage has a positive effect on biochemistry, increasing levels of dopamine, lymphocytes, and natural killer cells.”2

“Some people worry that having a massage when you have cancer may make the cancer cells travel to other parts of the body. No research has proved this to be true.”3

A study done by the National Cancer Institute taught personal caregivers of patients (usually family members) massage techniques for cancer care via DVD instruction. Caregivers then regularly massaged their patients. Results of the study showed reduced symptoms and less side effects from cancer treatment, as well as increased social bonding and improved general comfort of the patient.

“‘The magnitude of the impact of family members was unexpected. Our research found significant reductions of pain, anxiety, fatigue, depression and nausea when massage was routinely administered at home by family and caregivers,’ states lead researcher William Collinge, Ph.D.
The study found massage by family members reduced stress/ anxiety (44% reduction), pain (34%), fatigue (32%), depression (31%), and nausea (29%).”4

For cancer patients seeking professional massage services, deep massage is not recommended, due to the potential of bruising and skin sensitivity (from radiation). Physical manipulation of bones is also discouraged, to avoid fractures of bones weakened during treatment of certain types of cancers.5 However, The American Cancer Society recognizes that “gentle massage and bodywork can be adapted to meet the needs of cancer patients.”6 It is recommended that a patient seek approval from their Oncologist before adding massage into their treatment plan.

Massage is increasingly being offered by hospitals and cancer care centers as a supportive therapy for cancer patients.2Massage is a non-invasive, cost effective way for patients to safely and effectively control pain and reduce the need for medications (thus reducing potential side effects). Regular massage can also help patients reduce stress, improve sleep, increase relaxation, boost immune function, and flush out toxins.

Adding massage as part of a comprehensive treatment plan gives cancer patients a greater sense of control over their own care. By decreasing anxiety and improving the ability to cope, massage empowers patients to take charge of their own healing process.

This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc. Dreamclinic is a Health and Wellness company committed to sharing information about commonly experienced health conditions and how they may be impacted through the use of bodywork and other natural approaches. Dreamclinic offers massage, acupuncture, and Reiki sessions at its Greenlake and Queen Anne clinics, as well as onsite massage at workplaces around Puget Sound. Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.


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