Not so very long ago, Massage was thought to be dangerous if used upon cancer patients not in full remission. We've come a long way from that restrictive view, with this recent study conducted by showing that massage therapy can reduce pain, depression and anxiety in breast cancer patients, without harmful side effects.
The experiment was designed with 34 women as subjects, all in Stage 1 or 2 of breast cancer. The women were randomly assigned to either a massage therapy group or a standard-treatment control group. Each participant had completed either a course of radiotherapy or chemotherapy at least 3 months before the study started.
Women lucky enough to be involved in the massage group received treatments of 30 minutes long three times a week, for five weeks. Massage techniques were gentle, meant to induce relaxation through stroking, stretching and squeezing movements. Women assigned to the control group received conventional medical treatment only, with an option to receive massage after the study. (We like these researchers!)
Researchers used a combination of urine and blood tests to measure physical signs of stress relief, while The State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Profile of Mood States and the Symptom Checklist-90-R was used to attempt to measure more the more subjective side of relaxation. All tests were commenced both before and after the test period to gain an accurate picture of any change in the subjects' mental and physical states.
The results of blood and urine tests were encouraging: serotonin and dopamine levels in the subjects' urine significantly increased, and bloodwork showed there was a notable increase in lymphocytes and natural killer T cells, both signs of a flourishing immune system.
"NK cells spontaneously destroy a wide variety of cancer and virus-infected cells and are involved in eliminating metastases," state the researchers. "Lymphocytes are precursor cells of immunological function as well as regulators and effectors of immunity."
Questionnaires revealed that women involved in the study group had lowered levels of anger, depression, anxiety and hostility. These findings corroborate past results of other studies, which discovered the immune and mood-boosting effects of massage are quite widespread.
The report states that: "In summary, the self-reports of reduced stress, anxiety, anger/hostility, and improved mood, and the corroborating findings of increased dopamine and serotonin levels and increased NK cell number (the primary outcome measure) and lymphocytes suggest that massage therapy has positive applications for breast cancer survivors."
This study not only lends credence to the health benefits of massage therapy by proving the connections between massage and positive changes in mental and physical health, but also gives help to those currently battling cancer or recovering from it. Massage seems to be not only a pleasant experience for the mind, but actually physically and mentally healing, especially if taken frequently during times of stress.