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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Massage Increases Immune Cells and Reduces Anxiety in Breast Cancer Patients

Massage therapy has been shown to have numerous beneficial effects on people suffering from cancer. From alleviating anxiety, pain, anger, and depressed mood, to more definable immune effects, massage therapy is an excellent adjunct care method for those suffering from cancer.
Several studies have demonstrated that individuals suffering from certain types of cancer including breast, lung, and stomach cancer, patients who were given massage therapy had a lower amount of nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy treatments. Additionally, these same patients reported have lowered anxiety, physical discomfort, fatigue, and mood disturbance when tested against a control group that did not receive massage.

Perhaps even more importantly than the outcomes mentioned above are the effects noted on cancer patients with regard to their Natural Killer (NK) cell activity. In two separate studies, one reported in Autonomic Neuroscience, and another reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, (see references at the end of the article), massage therapy had a positive effect on Natural Killer cell activity.

Natural Killer cell activity can often deteriorate during radiation and chemotherapy, which has a negative effect on the body’s own ability to fight off infection. Oftentimes, people being treated with radiation and chemo will contract secondary infections in addition to the cancer, further complicating their medical treatment.

In the study reported in Autonomic Neuroscience in 2009, “massage decreased the deterioration of natural killer cell activity occurring during radiation therapy…” Since radiation therapy is so damaging to the body’s immunity, the fact that massage therapy can help to counter that negative effect is very important news for those undergoing this type of treatment.

In the study reported in Journal of Psychosomatic Research, a group of women with Stage 1 or 2 breast cancer were treated with massage or a control group receiving no massage therapy. At the end of the study, a subset of the women had their blood drawn to measure their immune system. The women had increased Natural Killer cell activity versus the control group after the massage intervention. Since cancer is a disease that has negative effects on overall immunity, and the treatments provided also decrease immunity while they are active, massage therapy shows promise as an adjunct treatment to help with these specific issues.
In conclusion, it appears from these and other studies published in the scientific literature that most cancer patients, whether in active treatment or just diagnosed with cancer, can benefit from massage therapy. To view more studies about massage therapy with regard to various conditions, please visit our studies page by clicking here. For information on booking a massage therapy appointment, or for our long term massage care packages for your loved one, please visit our website by clicking here.


The effect of massage on immune function and stress in women with breast cancer--a randomized controlled trial; Billhult A, Lindholm C, Gunnarsson R, Stener-Victorin E. Auton Neurosci. 2009 Oct 5;150(1-2)

Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy; Hernandez-Reif M, Ironson G, Field T, Hurley J, Katz G, Diego M, Weiss S, Fletcher MA, Schanberg S, Kuhn C, Burman I. J Psychosom Res. 2004 Jul;57(1):45-52.

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