The effect of massage for women with breast cancer

Abstract: Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in females. The effect of massage in the field of oncology has been investigated to some extent. The present thesis explored the effect of light pressure effleurage massage in women with breast cancer in six main domains; nausea, anxiety, depression, quality of life, stress and cellular immunity. It also described the experience of massage during chemotherapy. The effect of light pressure effleurage was investigated on nausea, anxiety and depression in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Five part-body massage treatments were given during chemotherapy infusion. Massage significantly lowered nausea (p=0.025) compared with control treatment. No significant differences were shown between study groups on anxiety and depression. The experience of light pressure effleurage during chemotherapy treatment was studied using phenomenology as theoretical framework. The essential meaning of receiving massage during chemotherapy was described as a retreat from the feeling of uneasiness toward chemotherapy. Results revealed five themes: a distraction from the frightening experience, a turn from negative to positive, a sense of relaxation, a confirmation of caring and finally they just felt good. The effect of light pressure effleurage on immunity was investigated in women with breast cancer undergoing radiation. Ten massage treatments, 20 minutes duration, was administered to hands or feet during three weeks. Main variables were NK (Natural Killer) and T cells. The effect of massage on cortisol, oxytocin, anxiety, depression and quality of life was also studied. We were not able to demonstrate any significant differences between study groups on any of the variables in this study. Possible explanation to the lack of response was that the patients were included during radiation treatment and that this therapy, even when given tangientially only to the breast, has some direct immunosuppressive effect. Another explanation was that ongoing radiation therapy is a strong psychological stressor that indirectly affects the immune and neuroendocrine systems. The immediate effect of light pressure massage on immunity was also investigated. Patients received one full-body massage, 45 minutes duration. Main variable was NK cells, secondary variables cortisol, blood-pressure and heart rate. Massage treatment had significant effect on NK cell function compared with the control group (p=0.03). Furthermore, massage significantly lowered systolic blood-pressure (p=0.03) and heart rate (p=0.04) compared with the control group. No significant effects were demonstrated on cortisol or diastolic blood-pressure.

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