Student Work: "Massage Treatment is Safe for Anyone with Cancer 5 or More Years after Treatment" by Melanie Gnauck

Michelle Burns
January 14, 2016

During the course of attending massage school at A New Beginning School of Massage, students are given a number of assignments that requiring research and writing. Some of these assignments result in very insightful and  well thought out information and  decision-making outcomes. I am happy to share some of their assignments for you to enjoy.


"Massage Treatment is Safe for Anyone with Cancer 5 or More Years after Treatment"

Massage Therapy research is important. Even though massage has been utilized for centuries because of it's therapeutic applications, its credibility as a complementary therapy in treating maladies has only recently gained recognition in western medicine. This is a result of pioneers in the industry leading the way in quantitative and qualitative research. Research is critical, not only to back claims made in the industry, but also to question the efficacy of any given treatment. In this way, the massage therapist and client can have confidence in the treatment that's being implemented, expecting the best results.

In order to find the best possible evidence, it helps to understand the basic designs of research studies. The following basic definition of clinical research are:

Case series and Case reports:

These consist either of collections of reports on the treatment of individual patients with the same condition, or of reports on a single patient.

Case Control Studies:

Patients who already have a certain condition are compared with people who do not.

Cohort Studies:

Also called longitudinal studies, involve a case-defined population who presently have a certain exposure and/or receive a particular treatment, that are followed over time and compared with another group who are not affected by the exposure under investigation.

Rendomized Controlled Studies:

This is a study in which 1) There are two groups, one treatment group and one control group. The treatment group receives the treatment under investigation, and the control group receives either no treatment (placebo) or standard treatment. 2) Patients are randomly assigned to all groups.

Double-Blind Method:

A type of randomized controlled clinical trial/study in which neither medical staff/physicians nor the patient knows which of several possible treatments/therapies the patient is receiving.


Meta-analysis is a systematic, objective way to combine data from many studies, usually from randomized controlled clinical trials, and arrive at a pooled estimate of treatment effectiveness and statistical significance.

Systematic Reviews:

A systematic review is a comprehensive survey of a topic that takes great care to find all relevant studies of the highest level of evidence, published and unpublished, assess each study, synthesize the findings from individual studies in an unbiased, explicitly and reproducible way, and present a balanced and impartial summary of the findings with due consideration of any flaws in the evidence. In this way it can be used for the evaluation of either existing or new technologies and practices. (Research definitions taken from Examples and further explanations can be found at this site as well.)

Another source of research, and possibly the most reliable and conclusive, would be "Peer- Reviewed Journals." Elsevier Publishing defines peer review as follows: "Reviewers play a central role in scholarly publishing. Peer review helps validate research, establish a method by which it can be evaluated, and increase networking possibilities within research communities. Despite criticisms, peer review is still the only widely accepted method for research validation." 1

cancer cell under microscop

cancer cell

I chose to research the statement "Massage is safe for anyone with cancer 5 or more years after treatment." My mother survived cancer, so I have witnessed first hand the pain and suffering this disease inflicts on individuals and their families. The American Cancer Society estimates 1,658,370 U.S. citizens will fall prey to cancer in 2015. 2 These numbers are staggering and indicate how great the demand for quality care is. In light of this demand, does research support the safety of massage therapy during each stage of treatment and well into remission, 5 years and longer?

Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, conducted a study on integrating massage therapy within the palliative care of veterans with advanced illnesses: an outcome study. Massage therapists collected data pre- and post- massage to examine outcomes associated with pain, anxiety, dyspnea, relaxation and inner peace. One of the patients, for example, was diagnosed with advanced non-small-cell lung carcinoma, metastasis to liver and spine. Between April 1, 2009 and July 31, 2010, 153 patients received massage sessions. Diagnoses, chronic pain, and social support were also taking into consideration. Analysis of covariance was used to examine changes over time. The results of this study showed significant improvement in all participating patients. Pain decreased by 1.6 (0-10 scale, P<.001), anxiety decreased by 1.52 (0-10, P<.001), patients' sense of relaxation increased by 2.92 (0-10, P<.001), and inner peace improved by 1.80 (0-10, P<.001). It was concluded that massage was useful for improving symptom management and reducing suffering in palliative patients. There were no adverse reactions reported. 3

In the publication, "Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice," it states, "Serious adverse events are rare and massage is generally safe when given by credentialed and experienced practitioners."4  Also stated: "More than 60 trials provide evidence for the feasibility and safety of massage for children and adults at every phase of the cancer experience."5

My findings lead me to conclude that massage therapy is safe for cancer patients in all its phases, if performed by a credentialed and experienced therapist. There are valid reasons why massage therapy is one of the leading integrative therapies most often used for cancer patients seeking pain relief.6 Touch through massage induces a feeling of calm, is comforting and is especially effective in countering some of the necessary invasive treatments patients must undergo, mainly through providing pain relief.

I, personally, am encouraged by these findings. Of the many prospects massage therapy offers, providing comfort and pain relief inspires me the most.



1., what is peer review

2.  American Cancer Society,

3.Mitchinson, A., Fletcher, C., Kim, H., Montagnini, M., & Hinshaw, D. (2014). Integrating massage therapy within the palliative care of veterans with advanced illnesses: An outcome study. Am J Hosp Palliat Care., 31(1). doi:10.1177/1049909113476568.

4. Dryden, T. (2012). Corbin, Deng, et. al. In Massage therapy: Integrating research and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

5. Dryden, T. (2012). Janice E. Post-White. In Massage therapy: Integrating research and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

6. Dryden, T. (2012). Boon, Okitunde and Zick. In Massage therapy: Integrating research and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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