Massage Therapy for Fatigue Management in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review and Descriptive Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Tao Wang, Jianxia Zhai, Xian-Liang Liu, Li-Qun Yao, Jing-Yu Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Background. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms among breast cancer survivors. Although massage therapy has been commonly used for fatigue management, relevant evidence on the effectiveness of massage therapy for the reduction of fatigue in breast cancer survivors is still unclear. Objective. To identify the research evidence on the effectiveness and safety of massage therapy to manage fatigue in breast cancer survivors and summarize the characteristics of massage therapy protocols utilized for fatigue management in breast cancer survivors. Methods. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using massage therapy to manage cancer-related fatigue were searched in PubMed, Medline, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), ScienceDirect, PsycINFO, Wan Fang Data, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) from the inception of each database to March 2021. The Cochrane Back Review Group Risk of Bias Assessment Criteria was used to assess the methodological quality of the included studies. Descriptive analysis was applied for a summary and synthesis of the findings. The primary outcome was fatigue measured by any patient-reported questionnaires, and the secondary outcomes were quality of life and massage-therapy-related adverse events. Results. Ten RCTs were included. Massage therapy was found to have a positive effect on fatigue management compared with routine care/wait list control groups and sham massage. Despite these encouraging findings, the review concluded that most of the included studies exhibited an unsatisfactory experimental design, particularly, inadequate blinding and allocation concealment. The duration and frequency of the massage therapy interventions varied across the studies. Adverse events were reported in three included studies, with no study conducting causality analysis. Conclusion. This systematic review provides the latest research evidence to support massage therapy as an encouraging complementary and alternative medicine approach to managing fatigue in breast cancer survivors. More rigorously designed, large-scale, sham-controlled RCTs are needed to further conclude the specific therapeutic effectiveness and safety issues of massage therapy for fatigue management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9967574
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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