Introduction to Oncology Massage Research

There has been a significant increase in the interest and use of massage therapy in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments. The benefits massage therapists and their clients affected by cancer have observed for years are now being validated in an increase in the number of medical research studies. Between the years 1900 and 1990 there were an average of 31 citations per year in the scientific literature referring to cancer and massage or oncology and massage. From 1991 to 2000 there were 294 citations per year. From 2001 to 2005 there were 1106 per year. From 2006 to 2008 there were 1370 citations per year.

Multiple studies now link gentle non-invasive massage for people affected by cancer with significant reductions in pain, fatigue, nausea, depression, and anxiety. Study after study reports improvements in some or all of these symptoms by unexplained mechanisms following massage interventions. Having cancer can be one of life's most stressful experiences. For many people, massage is an essential antidote to stress. To make use of the oncology massage information explosion, massage therapists search the scientific literature. They look for specific information for many purposes, including:

  • to keep current in the fields of cancer treatment and oncology massage therapy.
  • to share with physicians and nursing staff that massage will benefit patients.
  • to learn more about specific conditions encountered on the massage table (i.e. lymphedema, cording, radiation skin reactions).
  • to support the establishment of massage programs in cancer hospitals and oncology medical practices.

Oncology massage has a long way to go when it comes to research, but the momentum is building in the direction of credible, well-designed studies that will lead the way to greater integration of massage in cancer care...and smoother cancer journeys.

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