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J Clin Trials. 2014;4. pii: 1000161.

Gentle Massage Improves Disease- and Treatment-Related Symptoms in Patients with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

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Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies, University of Virginia School of Nursing, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.
University of Virginia School of Nursing, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.
University of West Georgia School of Nursing, Carrollton, Georgia, USA.
Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.



Cancer treatment is reported to be stressful, and patients diagnosed with hematologic cancers often exhibit higher levels of anxiety and emotional distress than individuals with other malignancies. Management of these symptoms in patients with hematologic cancer presents significant challenges, as many of them are in and out of the hospital while undergoing high dose chemotherapy. Oncology patients use complementary modalities such as therapeutic massage in an attempt to alleviate disease and treatment-related symptoms, including anxiety and emotional distress. In the current study, the feasibility of a novel massage intervention delivered over the continuum of care, as well as assessment of the immediate and cumulative effects of massage, was examined in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia.


A mixed-methods, unmasked, prospective, randomized study was conducted with two groups: a usual care alone control group and a massage therapy intervention plus usual care group.


Significant improvements in levels of stress and health-related quality of life were observed in the massage therapy group versus the usual care alone group, after adjusting for anxiety level, including both immediate and cumulative effects of massage.


While the findings of the current study regarding acceptability, feasibility, and potential efficacy of therapeutic massage as a complementary health-enhancing intervention in patients diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia are very promising, the relatively small size of the study sample limits generalizability.


Acute myelogenous leukemia; Complementary and alternative medicine; Complementary health-enhancing approaches; Integrative medicine; Therapeutic massage

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