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Massages: good therapy for cancer victims

The April 29 Wellness Wednesday, held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Children’s Hospital lobby, will feature massage therapy. Participants will be able to get a free massage from a licensed therapist of the Center for Therapeutic Massage.

by Ashli Golden
Licensed Massage Therapist
At almost any given moment, a handful of people in your life have had some sort of relationship to cancer. Whether an individual has leukemia as an infant, lymphoma as a child or discovers breast or prostate cancer as an adult, a particular prognosis is set up by health care professionals to help patients and their families survive this consuming condition. Along the track of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, doctors increasingly have found benefits through massage therapy to address cancer symptoms.
In order to grasp the concept of comfort that massage brings to a cancer patient, one must imagine the depths of this disease.
Cancer is the term for the disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Several main types of cancer include carcinomas that begin in the skin or in the tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcomas are cancers that begin in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels or any other connective tissue.
Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the blood-forming tissues and bone marrow producing a large number of abnormal blood cells that can enter the blood stream and lymphomas and multiple myelomas are cancers that begin in the immune system.
Battling this devastating disease can exist  for varying spans of time for each patient. Therefore, types of treatment also may vary. Symptoms, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat similar for most all patients. Overall apathy, anxiety, depression, nausea, trouble sleeping, and pain are the most common symptoms and the combination of any number of them results in a decreased quality of life.
The benefits of massage are many to all systems of the body, but are especially important in the lymphatic and immune systems affected in the cancer patient.

Massage therapy

  • Promotes lymph circulation reducing lymphedema (swelling) helping to remove metabolic waste products from the system.
  • Increases the number of white blood cells thereby strengthening the immune system through the increased count of natural killer cells and lymphocytes.
  • Increases blood flow to bring fresh, nutrient rich blood to the body.
  • Relaxes tense muscles.
  • Increases alpha and delta brainwaves, which are linked to a better quality of sleep.
  • Reduces stress through activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

A 2004 study at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, showed that the symptoms of cancer patients dramatically improved with the use of massage. During a three-year period, more than 1,200 patients treated with massage showed an approximate 50 percent reduction in pain, fatigue, anxiety, nausea, and depression.

Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.