Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer center

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004 Sep;28(3):244-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2003.12.016.


Massage is increasingly applied to relieve symptoms in patients with cancer. This practice is supported by evidence from small randomized trials. No study has examined massage therapy outcome in a large group of patients. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, patients report symptom severity pre- and post-massage therapy using 0-10 rating scales of pain, fatigue, stress/anxiety, nausea, depression and "other." Changes in symptom scores and the modifying effects of patient status (in- or outpatient) and type of massage were analyzed. Over a three-year period, 1,290 patients were treated. Symptom scores were reduced by approximately 50%, even for patients reporting high baseline scores. Outpatients improved about 10% more than inpatients. Benefits persisted, with outpatients experiencing no return toward baseline scores throughout the duration of 48-hour follow-up. These data indicate that massage therapy is associated with substantive improvement in cancer patients' symptom scores.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Massage*
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management
  • Treatment Outcome