Massage therapy for symptom reduction and improved quality of life in children with cancer in palliative care: A pilot study
Background: For children with cancer in palliative care, pain and worry are common and frequently under-managed, which negatively impacts quality of life (QOL). Massage therapy (MT) can lead to reduced pain in children with chronic illnesses. Children with cancer have experienced lower anxiety after MT. No studies have examined the effects of MT in pediatric oncology patients receiving palliative care. Objective: Conduct a MT intervention to determine intervention acceptability and initial effects on ratings of pain, worry reduction, and quality of life. Design: Pre-post single group pilot study. Setting/Subjects: Eight children with cancer (age 10-17) and one of their parents were recruited from a palliative care service. Procedure/Measurements: Baseline (one week prior to intervention): demographics, MT expectations, QOL, and pain measures. Intervention (one month): MT was provided once per week, with children’s pain and worry ratings occurring immediately before and after each MT session. Follow Up (4-6 weeks after baseline): QOL, pain, and MT/study acceptability questionnaires. Results: Participants reported significant decreases in pain following two MT sessions, and worry following one session. No significant changes in pain symptoms and QOL were found between baseline and follow up. Participants positively endorsed the study and the MT intervention, and there were no adverse effects reported. Conclusions: MT may lead to immediate decreases in pain and worry in children with cancer who are receiving palliative care, however the effects may not be sustained long term. Difficulties regarding protocol feasibility including recruitment and study compliance remain important considerations for future work.