A Systematic Literature Review of the Evidence Relating to Massage for People Living with Cancer

A Report by Anne Douglas

Purpose

The aim of the study, which was supported by Iris Cancer Partnership, was to undertake a systematic review of research evidence published between 2007 and 2012. The report is intended as a rigorous attempt to objectively review the research evidence on the efficacy of massage for people living with cancer rather than to present an academic treatise.  The review has been undertaken with the emphasis on discerning findings which will be of practical benefit to the general public, health professionals and massage therapists.

 

Conclusions

  • There is a substantial body of recent publications reporting on the effects of massage on the people living with cancer.  The publications reported on a range of study types and included research on massage for people with a number of different types of cancer
  • None of the studies reported that there was evidence for negative or adverse effects of massage in their findings.  Eight of the studies specifically reported that there was no evidence for negative or adverse effects
  • A number of studies highlighted the use of specifically trained therapists for massage for people living with cancer within their reports
  • Several of the studies commented on the need for specialist training for therapists giving massage for people living with cancer
  • The review found, for people from a range of different cancer types, massage can produce benefits related to: Anxiety; Mood disturbance; Wellbeing; Pain; Stress; Fatigue; Help with Coping; Relaxation; Nausea; and Sleep


Recommendations

  • It would appear that the research evidence on the benefits of massage for people living with cancer is not widely known by all of those with an interest in this field.  It is hoped that this report will help to disseminate the current, most up to date, research.
  • The research reveals gaps in our knowledge and understanding, for example little research relating to massage for children living with cancer was found and this may be an area that researchers would wish to consider in the future.  Comparisons of the effects of different research settings and massage techniques was not addressed in many of the reports and there may be opportunities to research this through the work of Iris Cancer Partnership.
  • A number of studies addressed difficulties of research design that may provide a useful guide for any future research projects.  Several of the studies identified interesting issues that were not within the remit of this review, such as: the effects of charging for massage; what therapists can expect when working with clients with cancer; and the extension of benefits to wider carers and family.
  • It is recommended that Iris Cancer Partnership develops a network for research dissemination amongst cancer and massage practitioners in Scotland.  Such a group could use the present report as a starting point for identification of opportunities for dissemination of the benefits of massage for people living with cancer as well as to identify opportunities for research and reporting of future initiatives.

 

If you are a Massage Practitioner and would like to review the key findings from the Literature Review click here

If you are a Medical Practitioner and would like to review the key findings from the Literature Review click here

If you have a more general interest in the findings from the Literature Review click here

 

This review was published in May 2013