Journal of Integrative Oncology

ISSN: 2329-6771

Open Access

The Efficacy and Safety of Massage Therapy for Cancer Inpatients with Venous Thromboembolism


Amy H Ng, Francis GJ, Sumler SS, Liu D and Bruera E

Background: Cancer patients have a 4 to 7 fold increase in the frequency of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) during treatment and VTE is a common cause of death. Oncology massage has been traditionally contraindicated in patients with thromboembolism, but studies show oncology massage improves symptoms and quality of life.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to review the safety and patient reported outcomes of massage in oncologic patients with a recent history of VTE.
Methods: After obtaining UT MD Anderson institutional review board approval, 25 patients who received oncology massage for symptom relief and quality of life, following the diagnosis of VTE were retrospectively reviewed. Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) scores were reviewed pre- and post-massage, as well as complications within 30 days requiring return to the Emergency Room or hospital re-admission.
Results: 19 patients with complete ESAS scores reported a significant improvement in pain, fatigue, anxiety and well-being. Eleven patients (44%) returned to the emergency department within 30 days of their most recent massage, due to disease progression, fatigue and diarrhea. None of the 25 patients had complications due to massage. One patient experienced a new VTE 7 days after finishing massage, (patient was off anti-coagulation secondary to a pseudoaneurysm bleed).
Conclusions: Our study suggests that if precautions are taken not to massage the anatomic site of the VTE, patients are afebrile and have >50,000 platelets with no coagulopathy, oncologic massage is a safe, non-invasive intervention even following VTE for improvement in generalized pain, fatigue and quality of life.


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