Integration of Massage Therapy in Outpatient Cancer Care

Virginia S. Cowen, PhD, LMT, Barbara Tafuto, MLS

Abstract


 

Background: Massage therapy can be helpful in alleviating cancer-related symptoms and cancer treatment-related symptoms. While surveys have noted that cancer patients seek out massage as a nonpharmacologic approach during cancer treatment, little is known about the integration of massage in outpatient cancer care.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which massage is being integrated into outpatient cancer care at NCI-designated Cancer Centers.

Setting: This study used descriptive methods to analyze the integration of massage in NCI-designated Cancer Centers providing clinical services to patients (n = 62).

Design: Data were collected from 91.1% of the centers (n = 59) using content analysis and a telephone survey. A dataset was developed and coded for analysis.

Main Outcome Measure: The integration of massage was assessed by an algorithm that was developed from a set of five variables: 1) acceptance of treatment as therapeutic, 2) institution offers treatment to patients, 3) clinical practice guidelines in place, 4) use of evidence-based resources to inform treatment, and 5) shared knowledge about treatment among health care team. All centers were scored against all five variables using a six-point scale, with all variables rated equally.

Results: The integration of massage ranged from not at all (0) to very high (5) with all five levels of integration evident. Only 11 centers (17.7% of total) rated a very high level of integration; nearly one-third of the centers (n = 22) were found to have no integration of massage at all—not even provision of information about massage to patients through the center website.

Conclusions: The findings of this analysis suggest that research on massage is not being leveraged to integrate massage into outpatient cancer care.


Keywords


massage; integrative oncology; nonpharmacologic; cancer treatment-related symptoms; integration algorithm

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v11i1.393

International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X