Massage therapy has been shown to reduce pain and anxiety in cancer patients, while also improving cancer patients’ mood. New research shows family caregivers can significantly reduce suffering in cancer patients at home through use of simple touch and massage techniques.
The study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, evaluated outcomes of a 78 minute DVD instructional program and illustrated manual in a sample of 97 patients and their caregivers. The multi-ethnic sample represented 21 types of cancer (nearly half with breast cancer) and all stages of disease, according to a press release from Collinge and Associates, the principal investigator’s company.
Caregivers included spouses, adult children, parents, siblings and friends. The project was conducted in Boston, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, using English, Spanish and Chinese languages.
In the study, couples were randomized to either an experimental group using the program, or an attention control group that engaged in reading.
Results indicated significant reductions for all symptoms after both activities, indicating that companionship alone has a positive effect. However, while symptoms were reduced from 12-28 percent after reading, massage from the caregiver led to reductions of 29-44 percent.
The greatest impact was on stress/anxiety (44 percent reduction), followed by pain (34 percent), fatigue (32 percent), depression (31 percent), and nausea (29 percent). Patients reporting an optional “other” symptom (e.g., headaches) saw reductions of 42 percent with massage. Caregivers in the massage group also showed gains in confidence and comfort with using touch and massage as forms of caregiving.