Q: Can massage help cancer patients?

A: With appropriate precautions and a skilled therapist, massage therapy can be part of supportive care for cancer patients who would like to try it.  Massage therapy, with or without aromatherapy (the use of essential oils) has been used to attempt to relieve pain, anxiety, and other symptoms in people with cancer.  Clinical practice guidelines (best practice standards) for the care of breast cancer patients include massage as one of several approaches that may be helpful for stress reduction, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life.  Clinical practice guidelines for the care of lung cancer patients suggest that massage therapy could be added as part of supportive care in patients whose anxiety or pain is not adequately controlled by usual care.  A 2016 evaluation of 19 different studies of massage for cancer patients in general found some evidence that massage might help with pain and anxiety.  Massage therapists may need to modify their usual techniques when working with cancer patients; for example, they may have to use less pressure than usual in areas that are sensitive because of cancer or cancer treatments.  It is best to find a Licensed Massage Therapist who is familiar working with medical providers and specializes in clinical massage.  Ask about the training, experience, and credentials of the massage therapist you are considering.

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