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Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2016 May;63(5):880-6. doi: 10.1002/pbc.25902. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

Pilot Study of Massage to Improve Sleep and Fatigue in Hospitalized Adolescents With Cancer.

Author information

Divison of Oncology, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Children's National Health System, Washington, District of Columbia.
Healwell, Arlington, Virginia.
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelpha, Pennsylvania.
Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Children's National Health System, Washington, District of Columbia.
Center for Translational Science, Children's National Health System, Washington, District of Columbia.
Department of Nursing Research and Quality Outcomes, Center for Translational Science, Children's National Health System, Washington, DC.



Adolescents with cancer experience many troubling symptoms, including sleep disruptions that can affect mood and quality of life. Massage is a safe and popular intervention that has demonstrated efficacy in pediatric and adult patients with cancer. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of conducting a massage intervention to help with sleep in hospitalized adolescent oncology patients.


Adolescents ages 12-21 with cancer who were expected to be hospitalized for at least four consecutive nights were recruited from the inpatient unit at Children's National Health System and randomized to either massage intervention or a waitlist control. Patients in the intervention group received one massage per night, for two or three nights. Sleep was measured with actigraphy and patient and proxy reported instruments were used to measure fatigue, mood, and anxiety.


The majority (78%) of patients approached for the study consented, and almost all patients in the intervention group (94%) received at least one massage, 69% received two, and rates of completion of instruments among adolescents were high demonstrating feasibility. There were trends toward increased night time and overall sleep in the intervention group compared with standard of care, but no differences between groups in the patient reported outcome measures. Participant and parent feedback on the intervention was positive and was the impetus for starting a clinical massage service at the hospital.


Massage for hospitalized adolescents with cancer is feasible, well received, and can potentially improve patients' sleep. A randomized multicenter efficacy study is warranted.


actigraphy; complementary and alternative therapy; pediatric cancer

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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