Cancer-related fatigue is a prevalent and debilitating symptom experienced by cancer survivors, yet treatment options for this condition are limited.
In a study from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, researchers evaluated the efficacy on persistent cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer survivors of weekly Swedish massage therapy versus an active control condition (light touch), compared to a control group who had no massage/touch sessions. The study was published in the journal of the American Cancer Society.
The early phase, randomized, single-masked, 6-week investigation enrolled 66 female stage 0-III breast cancer survivors (age range, 32-72 years) who had received surgery plus radiation and/or chemotherapy/chemoprevention with cancer-related fatigue condition. The outcome of treatments was measured by two methods: the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI) scale and the National Institutes of Health PROMIS Fatigue scale.
The mean baseline MFI scores for 57 subjects resulted in a 6-week reduction in MFI scores of 16.5 ± 6.4 (n = 20) versus a reduction of 8.1 ± 6.5 for light touch (n = 20), versus an increase of 5.9 ± 6.5 points for the control group.
Similarly, using the PROMIS Fatigue scores, massage therapy reduced the score by 5.5 points, and light touch reduced it by 3.2 points, while the control group had no significant change.
Higher credibility, expectancy, and preference on the part of the participants for massage therapy than for light touch did not affect the results.
The authors concluded that massage therapy produced clinically significant relief for cancer-related fatigue. This finding suggests that 6 weeks of a safe, widely accepted manual/massage therapy intervention causes a significant reduction in fatigue, a debilitating sequela for cancer survivors.
The results of this study should bolster the value of including massage therapy as an integral part of oncology treatment programs.