Recent studies have found that regularly scheduled massage therapy has shown a reduction in both fatigue and anxiety in cancer patients.
In particular, back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue in cancer patients.
Clinical studies have also shown that massage can reduce symptoms such as stress, nausea, pain, and depression.
Massage is considered a complementary therapy in cancer treatment. Complementary therapies aim to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease. They are used together with conventional or mainstream medicine. Complementary therapies are not used instead of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or drug therapy, but rather to enhance (or complement) the treatments.
While massage doesn’t treat the cancer itself, it may help reduce the side effects caused by conventional treatments and improve quality of life and wellbeing. As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer have said that having a massage makes them feel whole again, helps them to relax, helps them share feelings in an informal setting, makes them feel more positive about their body and rebuilds hope.
Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in sleep, scar tissue healing, quality of life, mental clarity and alertness, and range of movement.
Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumor or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. Massage therapy should always be given with the full consent of the cancer patient’s medical treatment team.