A large study, published in 2004, in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, looked at the effects of massage therapy on almost 1,300 people with cancer over three years. Subjects received either a 20-minute in-hospital massage or a 60-minute outpatient session. The study found that, overall, massage therapy reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The benefits lasted longer in the patients who had the 60-minute session.
A 2008 study of 39 people, published in Psycho-Oncology, looked at the safety and effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing stress hormone levels in patients with blood cancer. It randomised people to receive either aromatherapy, massage or rest. The study concluded that massage therapy significantly reduced the stress hormone cortisol.
In 2008, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews looked at 10 studies, including eight randomised controlled trials, evaluating the use of massage and aromatherapy for relieving symptoms in people with cancer. It found that massage therapy consistently reduced anxiety and depression and helped lower nausea and pain.