Massage Therapy for Pediatric Cancer

July 18, 2017
by Pharm Tao

Massage therapy has been suggested as a helpful complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) intervention for children with cancer. For example, a meta-analysis of 70 reports showed that massage therapy can be beneficial for alleviating anxiety, depression, constipation, pain, and hypertension (Hughes et al., 2008).

Massage therapy can also be helpful for supporting immune functions during the stages of immune suppression in cancer therapies (Hughes et al., 2008). Specifically, massage approaches with light to medium in pressure have been recommended for pediatric oncology.

In the processes, pediatric oncology nurses have been suggested as critical in the applications of the integrative interventions in addition to conventional therapies (Hughes et al., 2008). The nurses can help manage the interventions toward the optimal effects.

The meta-study suggests that massage is a safe and beneficial intervention among pediatric cancer patients (Hughes et al., 2008). It can be applied as an adjunct therapy for reducing side effects and psychological disorders related to anticancer therapies.

More studies in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) are needed to understand the mechanisms of how massage therapies may affect the immune and nervous systems, such as the cytokine pathways. Such understanding would be helpful for improving the therapeutic effects.


Hughes D, Ladas E, Rooney D, Kelly K. Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2008 May;35(3):431-42. doi: 10.1188/08.ONF.431-442.

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