According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. As a result of this devastating disease, many women are susceptible to stress disorders. The National Cancer Institute states that as many as one in five women with breast cancer (22 percent) may have posttraumatic stress disorder over the course of their lifetime. Now, a group of German researchers recently published an article in the Archives of Women's Mental Health that shows that massage is effective in reducing stress in breast cancer patients.
A group of 34 women diagnosed with primary breast cancer received either 30 minutes of massage twice a week for five weeks (17 patients) or standard care with no massage therapy (17 patients). All patients were given a questionnaire to rate their stress and mood levels. In addition, blood samples were taken to measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
At the end of the study period, patients who received massage therapy reported lowered stress and fewer mood disturbances, particularly in the areas of anger, anxious depression and tiredness. In addition, their cortisol serum levels were lower than those women who did not receive massage therapy.
The researchers concluded, "Our randomized controlled study suggests that women with breast cancer benefited from a 5-week massage treatment within the first years after surgery. Our study suggests that massage therapy may lead to a short-term reduction of stress perception and cortisol levels.
Furthermore, we found a positive impact of massage on mood disturbances. This study also raises questions for further investigations that may help in the understanding of the mechanisms of massage therapy and its physiological and psychological effects."
- Listing M, Krohn M, Liezmann C et al. The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following primary treatment of breast cancer. Arch Womens Ment Health Feb. 19, 2010 [Epub ahead of print].