Background: As the popularity of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) grows, patients are incorporating more CAM therapies into their conventional cancer care. Massage therapy, a CAM therapy known primarily for its use in relaxation, may also benefit patients with cancer in other ways. Massage can also be associated with risks in the oncology population. Risks can be minimized and benefits maximized when the clinician feels comfortable discussing CAM with his or her patients. This article reviews and summarizes the literature on massage and cancer to help provide the clinician with information to help facilitate discussions with patients.
Methods: MEDLINE and CINAHL databases were searched to identify relevant articles. These were reviewed for content and other pertinent references.
Results: Significant information was extracted from these resources to provide this overview of the use of massage for patients with cancer.
Conclusions: Conventional care for patients with cancer can safely incorporate massage therapy, although cancer patients may be at higher risk of rare adverse events. The strongest evidence for benefits of massage is for stress and anxiety reduction, although research for pain control and management of other symptoms common to patients with cancer, including pain, is promising. The oncologist should feel comfortable discussing massage therapy with patients and be able to refer patients to a qualified massage therapist as appropriate.