Massage Therapy Can be Important for Cancer Patients

Recent research compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association on massage therapy for cancer patients continues to indicate its value for easing pain, reducing nausea, and preventing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. It is also recommended or supported for consideration by the American College of Physicians, The Joint Commission and the Federation of State Medical Boards.

A recently-published study showed significant prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in breast cancer patients for those receiving massage therapy.1 The success continued through a 12 week assessment. Another study indicated massage and inhaled aromatherapy significantly lowered chemotherapy-induced acute nausea and vomiting among breast cancer patients.2

In September, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center published an evaluation and recommendations of various therapeutic approaches, including massage therapy for pain and to relieve anxiety and mood changes which are commonly associated with pain.3 This reinforces a meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain and anxiety in cancer patients released in 2016 that showed promise for reducing pain intensity/severity, fatigue, and anxiety in cancer populations.4

“Research on the value and efficacy of massage therapy for many of the issues related to cancer and its treatments continues to evolve,” says Christopher Deery, President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “Cancer patients should discuss with their physicians the inclusion of massage therapy as part of an integrative approach to their care, as oncology massage can provide real value.


  1. Izgu N, Prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy with classical massage in breast cancer patients receiving paclitaxel: An assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2019 Jun; 40:36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2019.03.002. Epub 2019 Mar 22.
  2. Zorba P, Ozdemir L. The Preliminary Effects of Massage and Inhalation Aromatherapy on Chemotherapy-Induced Acute Nausea and Vomiting: A Quasi-Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Cancer Nurs. 2018 Sep/Oct; 41(5):359-366. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000496.
  3. Deng G. Integrative Medicine Therapies for Pain Management in Cancer Patients. Cancer J. 2019 Sep/Oct; 25(5):343-348. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0000000000000399.
  4. Boyd C.,  The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part II, Cancer Pain Populations. Pain Med. 2016 Aug; 17(8):1553-1568. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw100. Epub 2016 May 10.

Related Resources

Massage Therapy and Pain Relief »

Cancer + Massage Therapy: Online CE Course »

Pediatric Oncology Massage: Online CE Course »

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