Oncology massage, beauty and wellness for cancer patients – Is Research Important?

Oncology massage, beauty and wellness for cancer patients – Is Research Important?

 By Jennifer Young


I entered the world of beauty and wellness for cancer patients from a scientific background.

Those of you who know me, or have heard me speak at events, realise that the shift from science to therapies for cancer patients hasn’t always been welcome or easy. I lived in a world of facts and I entered a less certain but no less assertive world.

My aromatherapy training was filled with ‘claims’ and devoid of references to support the assertions. I soon learned not to flick to the back of workbooks to find references.

When I was asked to work with the team at my local NHS hospital, to create a skincare range for those living with and beyond cancer, I needed my science. My Nutritional Therapy qualification came in handy too as the science of beauty and nutrition are closely linked.

My starting point when developing the skincare collections was science, research and references. You will find referenced information all over my website. www.beautydespitecancer.com has become a place where others come to learn.

The same was true when I developed our accredited training courses. I knew that touch therapies must be beneficial but I didn’t have any proof (being a lawyer as well as a scientist makes proof extra important to me).

I did the research and discovered what I intuitively knew – oncology massage improves wellness in cancer patients, both physically and emotionally. There are many benefits, some are listed below.

Short-term benefits

  • Reduced anxiety, depressed mood and anger in breast cancer patients1, 2, 4,9
  • Increased vigor2 (breast cancer patients)
  • Reduced mood disturbances and perceived stress levels3
  • Improved sleep quality4,9
  • Improved quality of life4 (breast cancer patients)
  • Reduced pain and improvement of mood, reduced stress levels5,9
  • Reduced perception of pain, nausea and increased relaxation after 10 minute (5 minute per foot) foot massage6
  • Pain intensity, pulse rate, and respiratory rate significantly reduced immediately after the massages. At study entry, the massage group reported higher pain intensity, which decreased by 42% (25% reduction in the control group).7
  • Reduced anxiety scores, depression, general fatigue, reduced motivation fatigue, and emotional fatigue8
  • Reduced depression and improved sleep10
  • Reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure11
  • Decrease in physical discomfort, group fatigue, and mood disturbance.
  •  The effect of massage on mood disturbances was greater when treated continuously by the same therapist.12

Long-term benefits include

  • Reduced depression and hostility, increased urinary dopamine, serotonin values, natural killer cell number and lymphocytes in breast cancer patients1, 2
  • Reduced mood disturbances and perceived stress levels3 (breast cancer patients)

 Looking at the research done by others is useful but isn’t enough. I wanted to know if our Jennifer Young Oncology Massage therapies and holistic beauty treatments for cancer patients were doing good, and, if so, how much good.

We have been carrying out our own research since we began offering oncology massage and oncology holistic treatment training to beauty and holistic therapists. The long term study was carried out over a period of years and, guess what? It shows that the Jennifer Young Oncology Therapies are extremely beneficial.

You can find the summary of findings below – the full findings will be published in a scientific paper later this year and presented at an International Conference for Oncologists in summer 2016.

78% of conditions causing concern were improved after a treatment


97% of clients reported improved well-being after a treatment


59% of clients (all affected by cancer) reported feeling as ‘good as they could’

Research has been so important to us. My job comes with a burden of responsibility and research – both independent, unique research and literature searches are my way of making sure that all of the therapist that we train in oncology massage and beauty and holistic therapies for those affected by cancer are doing good.

It’s not just the research & intuition that reassures us that we are helping at a difficult time – our clients tell us too. Our word cloud is made up of words used by patients before Jennifer Young Therapy.

These are the words that the same clients used before their Jennifer Young Therapy, when recalling having been turned away from spas and salons.


  1. Hernandez-Reif, M., Ironson, G., Field, T., Katz, G., Diego, M., Weiss, S., Fletcher, M., Schanberg, S. & Kuhn, C. (2003). Breast cancer patients have improved immune functions following massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 45-52. ?
  2. Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Ironson, G., Beutler, J., Vera, Y., Hurley, J., Fletcher, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., & Fraser, M. (2005). Natural killer cells and lymphocytes increase in women with breast cancer following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115, 495-510 ?
  3. Listing, M., Krohn, M., Liezmann, C., Kim, I, Reisshauer, A., Peters, E., Lapp, B.F. & Rauchfuss, M. (2010). The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following primary treatment of breast cancer. ?
  4. Sturgeon, M., Wetta-Hall, R., Hart, T., Good, M., & Dakhil, S. (2009). Effects of therapeutic massage on the quality of life among patients with breast cancer during treatment. Journal of Complementary Medicine, 15, 373-380. ?
  5. Hodgson, N.A., & Lafferty, D. (2012). Reflexology versus Swedish Massage to Reduce Physiologic Stress and Pain and Improve Mood in Nursing Home Residents with Cancer: A Pilot Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 5 pages ?
  6. Grealish, L., Lomasney, A., & Whiteman, B. (2000). Foot massage. A nursing intervention to modify the distressing symptoms of pain and nausea in patients hospitalized with cancer. Cancer Nursing, 23, 237-243. ?
  7. Wilkie, D.J., Kampbell, J., Cutshall, S., Halabisky, H., Harmon, H., Johnson, L.P., Weinacht, L., & Rake-Marona, M. (2000). Effects of massage on pain intensity, analgesics and quality of life in patients with cancer pain: A pilot study of a randomized clinical trial conducted within hospice care delivery. Hospice Journal, 15, 31-53. ?
  8. Rexilius, S.J., Mundt, C., Erickson Megel, M., & Agrawal, S. (2002). Therapeutic effects of massage therapy and handling touch on caregivers of patients undergoing autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Oncology Nursing Forum, 29, 35-44. ?
  9. Smith, M.C., Kemp, J., Hemphill, L., & Vojir, C.P. (2002). Outcomes of therapeutic massage for hospitalized cancer patients. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 34, 257-262. ?
  10. Soden, K., Vincent, K., Craske, S., Lucas, C., & Ashley, S. (2004). A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliate Medicine, 18, 87-92. ?

11.Billhult, A., Lindholm, C., Gunnarsson, R., Stener-Victorin, E. (2009). The effect of massage on immune function and stress in women with breast cancer–a randomized controlled trial. Autonomic Neuroscience, 150, 111-115. ?

  1. Massage therapy reduces physical discomfort and improves mood disturbances in women with breast cancer. Psycononcology, 18, 1290-1299. ?
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