Clinical research supports the use of massage and bodywork in reducing pain, nausea and anxiety, and recipients often report improved quality of sleep, less fatigue and a greater sense of positive connection to self and community.

Research resources

The source of research data is always important. Chochrane, PubMed and the TRIP Database provide an online collection of rigorous and up to date research on the effectiveness of healthcare treatments and interventions, as well as methodology and diagnostic tests. Use the words “massage”, “oncology” and “cancer” to search their website for information on the benfits of massage.

Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care.

PubMed is a database accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health maintains the database.

The TRIP Database is a clinical search engine designed to allow clinicians to quickly find answers to their clinical questions using the best available evidence.

What is Integrative Care?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health defines integrative medicine as a course of care that combines conventional and complementary approaches to health care in a coordinated way.

Integrative medicine is a philosophy based on treating patients by focusing on the whole person and using both conventional and complementary therapies in a multidisciplinary care fashion.

It is similar to complementary medicine but one key difference is that there is an open communication between practitioners of the different traditions.

Lorenzo Cohen, PhD Integrative Medicine Program Director University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Research spotlight

Open source databases often return many medical studies for oncology massage therapy. This section “spotlights” just a few current clinical trials, providing a taste of the research available. They have not been selected because they are “best” but to provide an introduction to the far more extensive research available in the Chochrane, PubMed and TRIP databases.

It is important to note that no single study “proves” anything and that many of the existing studies on oncology massage have small sample sizes, no control and/or other limitations that make them more suitable as indicators that more research is needed and less suitable as definitive proof of “cause and effect”.

• Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (US) study reviews the efficacy of complementary modalities in the treatment of neuropathic pain or sensory dysfunction, a chronic, often debilitating condition that affects an increasing number of cancer patients. Access this research

• Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (US) study revealed that a single 45-minute session of Swedish massage caused significant biological changes: both decreases in stress hormone cortisol levels and increases in the immune system’s white blood cells. Access this research

• University of Göteborg (Sweden) randomized controlled trial found massage significantly reduces nausea in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Access this research