What the Research says


Latest Publication

Finding the value in oncology massage: A mixed-method study of cancer services and survivors in Australia

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  • Adolf Kweku Sey, School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, Australia
  • ​Prof Jennifer Hunter, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

So proud that OML part-funded the research that led to this paper.

Summary of the Evidence - Key Points

Canberra-based OM4 Graduate Elizabeth Hall has recently prepared a summary of the evidence underpinning Massage Therapy for patients with cancer.  What follows are the key points arising from her work:

  • Massage therapy for patients with cancer has been studied since the 1990s. While the medical evidence remains limited, the positive experiences reported by patients are compelling.

  • A range of observational, longitudinal and some single-blind controlled trials has found significant beneficial effects of massage on side effects of cancer and its treatment, including anxiety, depression, nausea, pain and fatigue, at least in the short-term.

  • Most studies to date are deemed to be low quality because of their methodology, small size and high risk of bias. This reduces the power of these studies in systematic reviews and limits the generalisability of their findings.

  • As a result, systematic reviews of massage therapy have had mixed findings. Most conclude that well-designed large trials with longer follow-up periods are needed to be able to draw firm conclusions about the efficacy and effectiveness of massage for people with cancer. 

  • Such conclusions are in contrast with the reported experiences and uptake of massage by cancer survivors, who use massage to relieve common side effects and improve quality of life and wellbeing.

  • Research is needed that attempts to better understand the scope of massage therapy and the influence of its holistic effects on various outcomes associated with cancer. Outcomes such as patient satisfaction are also important.

  • Very recent research includes well-designed randomised controlled trials and large observational studies which have had positive findings and are likely to increase the certainty of the evidence. 

  • Reflecting changes in clinical practice and consumer demand, there is an increasing research focus on integrative oncology (IO), where a number of complementary therapies including massage are offered as adjuncts to conventional treatment.

  • Interest in IO services is growing rapidly. Recent Australian research involving surveys of cancer services and cancer survivors indicates a high level of uptake of complementary therapies, especially massage, by patients undergoing cancer treatment, and a wide disparity between the IO services cancer survivors would like and what they are able to access through their local cancer service.


For more information on the evidence underpinning Oncology Massage, please see Articles of Interest or contact us.

Last Saved: 28/Feb/2020


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