We Need Your Help: An Australian-first evidence-based research project on the benefits of massage for cancer patients

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Oncology Massage Campaign artwork_300x300 pixelBy Eleanor Oyston, Founder of Oncology Massage Ltd.

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) and Oncology Massage Ltd (OM Ltd) are developing a research project to assess CAM (OM) in relation to people with cancer and we need your help.

In Australia, massage developed out of the musculo-skeletal model of sports massage or the Swedish relaxation massage model. Sports massage traditionally has a ‘no pain, no gain’ ethos while relaxation massage is considered ‘too gentle to do harm’. Up until 1999, industry leaders in massage education taught therapists not to massage people with cancer or with a history of cancer as ‘massage might spread cancer’.

Over the past 16 years there has been a growing body of international medical research demonstrating the benefits of massage for patients experiencing cancer and cancer treatments.

The 2013 Position Paper on CAM from COSA recommends the use of “reputable and competent practitioners, preferably with oncology experience” but is that enough?

Oncology Massage training is available as a post graduate course to qualified massage or Bowen therapists. Oncology Massage therapists are taught that metastatic spread is far more complex than a mechanical movement of cells around the body. They also understand the impact of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery on a patient physically and psychologically, adjusting a massage or therapy session to accommodate the complexities of treatment side effects including low platelets or neutropenia, ports and catheters, radiotherapy and surgical sites. They understand how to work safely with a client at any stage of the cancer journey from diagnosis through treatment, into survivorship or to end of life.

Benefits have also been demonstrated in a variety of research studies showing a reduction in cortisol and inflammatory markers and an increase in dopamine, immune and endocrine functions (see the OM Ltd website for more information.)

Observational research by Oncology Massage therapists highlights the benefits of massage to clients, especially in relation to pain and anxiety, but also in relation to improved blood results with well timed massage sessions suggesting an increase in neutrophils during chemotherapy cycles.

We also observe changes in relation to depression and fatigue and their experience of chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Of course these are qualitative results only noticed in our case notes and in feedback sheets but with increased targeting of research projects, as the one designed by UWS, we could see some amazing results backed up by science and clinical trials.

Although the diagnosis of cancer is increasing, death rates are decreasing which means that a larger portion of the community are living with cancer, cancer treatment or the lifelong side effects such as peripheral neuropathy or the risk of lymphoedema.

In many cases, the shock of the cancer diagnosis drowns out the information that follows regarding treatment, surgery and self-care. An Oncology Massage therapist can offer support to your patients in relation to managing the side-effects of treatments and reducing the risk of developing lymphoedema following breast cancer surgery, radio therapy treatment or treatment to inguinal lymph nodes following prostate, bowel or reproductive organ cancer.

Increasingly medical studies are showing the benefits of massage for those experiencing cancer treatment however research into the benefits of massage are not as common as those in the profession would like to see. This is most likely due to a lack of funding and the fact that gentle touch applied through well trained hands is not an easy thing to research.

Research opportunities to test the efficacy of massage in support of cancer treatment are timely with cancer and wellness centres opening in hospitals and health services across Australia.

Research questions could include;

  • Can well timed massage increase neutrophils enabling patients to adhere to scheduled chemotherapy?
  • Can massage at the time of infusion reduce the incidence of CIPN in patients receiving Cisplatin?
  • Can massage on the day of infusion reduce common side effects of chemotherapy?
  • Can massage prior to treatment reduce anxiety during radiotherapy?

Massage oncology news australiaA proposed collaboration between OM Ltd and the University of Western Sydney will see research into Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and in particular Oncology Massage in relation to cancer patients. This will be funded by a Crowd Funding project so to pledge a donation or for more information go to http://www.pozible.com/project/194234

About OM Ltd

Oncology Massage therapists are trained in Australia by Oncology Massage Ltd, a not for profit training charity dedicated to providing training to massage therapists to ensure that all of those on a cancer journey have access to the benefits of safe touch.

OM Ltd is the industry leader; an Australian organisation, recognised by the international Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM), to deliver Oncology Massage training globally.

For more information and a National Referral Listing of Oncology Massage Therapists: http://www.oncologymassagetraining.com.au
[hr] Eleanor OystonEleanor Oyston is a Cytotechnologist, Massage Therapist and Bowen Practitioner who has had a distinguished career in Pathology and Medical Research.

For ten years Eleanor was the technical manager of a developmental neuroscience research laboratory at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra. It was during this time that she developed an intimate understanding of neurons, tissues culture, monoclonal antibodies and lead the field to develop techniques in in-situ hybridization that continue to be used today.

For the last 10 years she has worked with Petrea King at Quest for Life Centre bringing a unique understanding to tactile therapies and cancer.

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The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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