Medical Massage and Cancer: Healing with a Human Touch
By Melanie L. Bowen
Massage has a long history in alternative medicine, and its health benefits were known through the ages. References to massage are found in various ancient writings from the Far East, Middle East, Egypt and Greece. Hippocrates defined massage as medicine, calling it “the art of rubbing.”
Americans use massage therapy for several different purposes. It is a complementary medicine that is used with conventional medicine to treat various illnesses. While scientists are unclear how massage changes the body, they believe the practice has a positive impact on health.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), continues to fund research on the relationship between massage therapy and various health conditions. Massage appears to be safe for most patients, as long as a trained professional provides the therapy.
Oncology Massage in Cancer Treatment
Cancer patients often experience symptoms that cause physical pain and emotional stress. This can lead to a decrease in functioning and a poor quality of life. Symptom relief is important for patients in all stages of cancer, from diagnosis and treatment to recovery and beyond.
Massage therapy has potential to benefit patients with any form of cancer, at any stage of their disease. For patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments, massage can help them cope with the stresses and side effects. For those with mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer and other advanced diseases, massage can play an important part in palliative care.
An NCCAM study compared the benefits of medical massage versus simple touch therapy in patients with advanced cancer. The study found that both therapies caused significant improvements in mood, pain relief, emotional stress and quality of life.
The research is clear; human touch is an important part of cancer care. Whether it is medical massage from a trained therapist, or a loving hand or warm hug from a friend, human touch is healing touch.
Massage Benefits for Cancer Patients
Medical massage therapists have more medical training than standard massage therapists. Those who practice oncology massage are educated and trained to address the unique needs of cancer patients. They use a combination of techniques in their massage sessions, and the benefits for cancer patients are plentiful.