Efficacy of Swedish Massage Therapy on Cancer-related Fatigue in Cancer
With approximately 12 million cancer survivors today in the United States alone, increased attention is being given to quality of life after cancer treatment. Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is one of the most prevalent and debilitating symptoms experienced by people with cancer. It can persist for months or years after cancer therapy is completed and has a negative impact on all areas of function. Meaningful evidence-based treatment options for CRF are extremely limited and finding safe, inexpensive, and effective interventions for managing this distressing symptom are urgently needed. Basic research has shown that activation of the immune system can cause potent changes in behavior including reduced activity, fatigue, and decreased social behavior. Furthermore, research over the last decade has found a relationship between levels of CRF with increased inflammation. Thus, study of therapies that may decrease immune system activation in the setting of CRF represents a possible target for intervention. Massage therapy is one of the fastest growing alternative therapies and has a high rate of acceptance for symptom management among cancer patients. Massage has been shown in smaller studies with cancer patients to modulate the immune system. Moreover, massage has been demonstrated to significantly decrease markers of immune system activation in normal subjects. There are no published randomized controlled trials examining either the role of massage as an intervention primarily for CRF or investigating whether massage related decreases in immune system activation are responsible for improvement in CRF. This proposal investigates the effects of massage therapy on CRF among breast cancer survivors. The investigators' primary hypothesis is that Swedish Massage Therapy (SMT) will decrease CRF compared to a light touch condition and wait list control. The investigators' secondary hypothesis is that SMT will decrease CRF by reducing immune system activation. The investigators' main exploratory hypothesis is that a decrease in CRF will increase quality of life among cancer survivors.
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