Massage therapy “significantly” reduced depression in breast cancer patients, according to new research.

“Cancer patients frequently suffer from psychological comorbidities such as depression and elevated stress,” the researchers noted, in a report published on “Previous studies could demonstrate that cancer patients benefit from massage therapy on the physical and psychological level.”

This pilot study conducted by researchers Department of Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, investigated the effects of massage on depression, mood, perceived stress, and immune function in breast cancer patients.

Thirty-four breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to a massage group and a control group. Massage-group participants received two 30-minute massages per week for five weeks. At baseline, at the end of the intervention period, and six weeks after the end of intervention, patients of both groups completed the Perceived Stress Questionnaire, the Patient Health Questionnaire and the Berlin Mood Questionnaire, and blood was withdrawn for determining cytokine concentrations and immune functioning.

Depression and anxious depression were significantly reduced immediately after massage compared to the control group.

The research is published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer (2010 Jul 20).

“Massage therapy is an efficient treatment for reducing depression in breast cancer patients,” the researchers noted. “Insignificant results concerning immunological parameters, stress and mood indicate that further research is needed to determine psychological and immunological changes under massage therapy.”

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