Massage therapy reduces pain, alleviates depression and effects relaxation. New research shows that depression and pain increase fatigue in breast cancer survivors.

“Cancer-related fatigue is the symptom that most limits quality of life and is most common in patients that survive cancerous processes,” explained Manuel Arroyo, researcher from the University of Granada and lead author of a study that links psychological disorders and physical pain episodes with fatigue after treating a breast tumor, in a press release from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology.

Fifty-nine female patients treated for breast cancer were followed-up one year after having clinically overcome the disease. The researchers assessed their psychological and physical condition as well as different aspects linked to the typical medical symptoms following a cancerous process (tiredness, pain, limited movement, depression, etc.).

A statistical procedure (resampling) allowed inferences to be made similar to those that would be obtained from larger samples. “This method means that the data were more reliable and eliminated the problem of having a reduced sample size,” explained Arroyo. “It is difficult to find volunteers because patients are not often very willing to participate in research after having been through such harsh treatment.”

The results show that the patients most affected by tiredness following treatment also suffer episodes of depression and body image deterioration, neck and shoulder pain, and limited arm movement, possibly due to the surgical intervention, according to the press release.

“These findings should motivate patient support [programs] which improve their psychological condition and offer resources that can reduce pain,” pointed out Arroyo, who further stressed that “if fatigue is not treated, patients can suffer it for years, having a serious physical, emotional, social and economic impact.”

The study was published in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

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