Massage interventions and treatment-related side effects of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Clin Oncol. 2014 Oct;19(5):829-41. doi: 10.1007/s10147-013-0635-5. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Background: Massage as a complementary and alternative therapy has been associated with enhancing health and coping with treatment-related side effects in patients with breast cancer worldwide. This systematic review examined whether massage interventions provide any measurable benefit in breast cancer-related symptoms.

Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were searched for in PubMed, and the Cochrane Library through June 2013. We evaluated the quality of the studies included by the Cochrane Handbook 5.2 standards and analyzed the data using the Cochrane Collaboration's RevMan 5.2 software.

Results: Eighteen RCTs with a total of 950 participants were included. Compared with the control group, our meta-analysis showed that patients receiving regular use of massage had significantly greater reductions in anger and fatigue symptoms. However, there were no significant differences in depression, anxiety, pain, upper limb lymphedema, cortisol and health-related quality of life.

Conclusions: The current evidence demonstrates that there was mild evidence that massage may be a useful intervention in alleviating negative emotions and fatigue in patients with breast cancer. More trials with longer follow-up are needed to determine the exact long-term efficacy of this class of complementary and alternative medicine on breast cancer-related symptoms and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Massage*
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic