Massage therapy for children with cancer

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. Jan-Feb 2009;26(1):16-28. doi: 10.1177/1043454208323295. Epub 2008 Dec 11.


This pilot study aimed to determine the feasibility of providing massage to children with cancer to reduce symptoms in children and anxiety in parents. Twenty-three children/parent dyads were enrolled; 17 completed all data points. Children with cancer, ages 1 to 18 years, received at least 2 identical cycles of chemotherapy, and one parent, participated in the 2-period crossover design in which 4 weekly massage sessions alternated with 4 weekly quiet-time control sessions. Changes in relaxation (heart and respiratory rates, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol level) and symptoms (pain, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue) were assessed in children; anxiety and fatigue were measured in parents. Massage was more effective than quiet time at reducing heart rate in children, anxiety in children less than age 14 years, and parent anxiety. There were no significant changes in blood pressure, cortisol, pain, nausea, or fatigue. Children reported that massage helped them feel better, lessened their anxiety and worries, and had longer lasting effects than quiet time. Massage in children with cancer is feasible and appears to decrease anxiety in parents and younger children.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Massage*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome