Research indicates that massage therapy reduces stress and depression in the general population, and massage has also been studied in relation to its ability to alleviate pain, anxiety, depression and stress in cancer patients specifically. Massage therapy has also been found to improve mood in advanced cancer patients.
New research shows stress and depression are associated with shorter survival times in head-and-neck cancer patients.
“Studies have shown that stress can affect the immune system and weaken the body’s defense against infection and disease,” noted a press release from Fox Chase Cancer Center. “In cancer patients this stress can also affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread.”
In the current study, Carolyn Fang, Ph.D., co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase, and colleagues looked at 37 newly diagnosed, pre-surgical head-and-neck cancer patients to see if psychosocial functioning, such as perceived stress and depressive factors, was associated with VEGF, a biological pathway relating to patient outcomes.
The patients were predominantly male (70.3 percent), and approximately 57 years old, with primary tumor sites of the oral cavity (65.9 percent), larynx (19.9 percent), and oropharynx (13.5 percent). More than 40 percent of them were classified as having early-stage disease.
Each patient was given a psychosocial questionnaire to complete prior to treatment, which required them to answer questions about social support, depression and perceived stress. In addition, VEGF expression in tumor tissue obtained during surgery was evaluated using immunohistochemistry––a process that helps detect the presence of specific proteins in cells or tissues.
“Our analysis indicated that higher levels of perceived stress and depressive symptoms were associated with greater VEGF expression in the tumor tissue of these patients” said Fang. Greater VEGF expression was, in turn, associated with shorter disease-free survival among patients.