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Massage Versus Relaxation For Breast Cancer

R E S E A R C H

Massage Versus   Relaxation for Breast Cancer
 
Women with breast cancer who   received massage therapy showed a significant increase in both beneficial   natural-killer cells and dopamine levels, and a significant decrease in long-term   anxiety, as compared to women who received relaxation therapy, according to a   recent study.

"Breast Cancer Women   Experience Increased Natural Killer Cells Following Massage Therapy" was   conducted by staff at the Touch Research Institutes.

Fifty-eight women diagnosed within   the last three years with early-stage breast cancer, at least three months   post-surgery and finished with radiation and chemotherapy, were randomly   assigned to either a massage-therapy group, a relaxation-therapy group or a   standard-treatment control group.

Relaxation therapy was used to   discover whether massage benefits women with breast cancer simply because   it’s relaxing, or if it is the massage itself that produces positive effects.

Women assigned to the   massage-therapy group received three 30-minute massages per week for five   weeks. Women in the relaxation group self-administered three 30-minute   progressive-muscle-relaxation sessions per week for five weeks. Women in the   control group received standard breast-cancer treatment.

On the first and last days of the   study, the women were evaluated for both immediate and long-term effects of   the sessions on depression, anger, anxiety, vigor and pain. The Profile of   Mood States, the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised (SCL-90R) Depression Subscale   and the State Anxiety Inventory were used to assess these items. Pain was   evaluated with the Short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire.

Urine and blood samples were taken   at the beginning and end of the study to measure dopamine and   natural-killer-cell levels. Natural-killer cells are known to be effective   against virus-infected cells and various types of tumor cells.

Results of the study showed that   both the massage and relaxation groups had lower levels of depression,   anxiety and pain immediately after the sessions, as compared to the   standard-treatment control group. However, it was only women in the massage   group who experienced a long-term reduction in anxiety.

It was also the massage-therapy   group alone that showed a significant increase in dopamine and   natural-killer-cell levels from the first to last day of the study.

"The pivotal finding in this   study was the increase in natural-killer cell numbers for the women with   breast cancer who received massage therapy," state the study’s authors.   "Their clinical condition would be expected to improve inasmuch as   natural-killer cells are noted to destroy tumor cells."

Source: The Touch Research Institutes, with support from BIOTONE   and the U.S. Department of Defense. Authors: Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D.;   Tiffany Field, Ph.D.; Gail Ironson, M.D.; Julia Beutler; Yanexy Vera; Judith   Hurley, M.D.; Mary Ann Fletcher, Ph.D.; Saul Schanberg, M.D., Ph.D.; and   Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D.

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