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Benefits of Massage for Cancer Patients

October 8, 2021

 

A large body of empirical evidence supports the established effects of massage therapy for the following condition :

Cancer

Over the last five years, evidence for the positive effects of massage therapy in the management of cancer patients has continued to burgeon, with many new Level 1 and 2 studies being published. Although massage therapy is clearly not a treatment for cancer itself, it is effective in the management of symptom distress and palliation. It can also ameliorate the mood effects of a cancer diagnosis, such as stress and depression.

A substantial body of systematic reviews supports the efficacy of massage therapy in treating the side effects of cancer, including a Cochrane Systematic Review in 2004, which was updated in 2008.

The largest single study of massage and cancer was conducted at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, where 1290 patients were treated with massage therapy over a three-year period.

The most recent systematic review and meta-analysis of massage and cancer pain populations concluded that massage therapy appears to be promising for reducing pain intensity/severity, fatigue, and anxiety in cancer populations compared to the active comparators evaluated. The authors concluded that patients should consider massage therapy as a therapeutic option to help manage their cancer pain.

A 2015 Cochrane review found manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) was well tolerated and safe for individuals with breast-cancer related lymphoedema. The authors concluded MLD may offer additional benefit to compression bandaging for swelling reduction, with those experiencing mild to moderate lymphoedema benefitting most from adding MLD to an intensive course of treatment with compression bandaging.

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