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End stage cancer is an incredibly difficult time for the patient and loved ones. The best we can possibly do is continue to offer support and treatment for the symptoms of cancer so that the person will continue to live as good a life as possible for however long that may be.
In offering palliative care (care focused on alleviating symptoms rather than curing the disease) involves aiding the patient with all needs including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual support. Pain medications are usually used as well as anything necessary to treat infections and edema.
Massage may be very useful in cancer palliation because of its wide range of benefits. Massage has been found to relieve physical and emotional stress. It is capable of reducing edema and improving mobility. Massage is deemed a positive experience by most that have experienced it thereby boosting a person's mood.
A study printed in Support Care Cancer (the official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer) reviewed six databases of classical massage trials for cancer patients, which collectively suggested that "massage can alleviate a wide range of symptoms: pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, anger, stress and fatigue." 1
If you or a loved one is in need of palliative care and comfort, please talk with your physician or hospice care about contacting a licensed massage therapist so that the quality of your life may be improved.
Ernst E. Massage therapy for cancer palliation and supportive care: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Support Care Cancer 2009;17(4):333-7.