Objective: This article reports on the development, implementation, and evaluation of an integrative clinical oncology massage program for patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer in a large academic medical center.
Materials and methods: We describe the development and implementation of an oncology massage program embedded into chemoinfusion suites. We used deidentified program evaluation data to identify specific reasons individuals refuse massage and to evaluate the immediate impact of massage treatments on patient-reported outcomes using a modified version of the Distress Thermometer delivered via iPad. We analyzed premassage and postmassage data from the Distress Thermometer using paired t test and derived qualitative data from participants who provided written feedback on their massage experiences.
Results: Of the 1,090 massages offered, 692 (63%) were accepted. We observed a significant decrease in self-reported anxiety (from 3.9 to 1.7), nausea (from 2.5 to 1.2), pain (from 3.3 to 1.9), and fatigue (from 4.8 to 3.0) premassage and postmassage, respectively (all P < .001). We found that 642 survey participants (93%) were satisfied with their massage, and 649 (94%) would recommend it to another patient undergoing treatment. Spontaneous patient responses overwhelmingly endorsed the massage as relaxing. No adverse events were reported. Among the 398 patients (36%) who declined a massage, top reasons were time concerns and lack of interest.
Conclusion: A clinical oncology massage program can be safely and effectively integrated into chemoinfusion units to provide symptom control for patients with breast cancer. This integrative approach overcomes patient-level barriers of cost, time, and travel, and addresses the institutional-level barrier of space.