Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of massage therapy conducted by a qualified therapist on adult participants with a diagnosis of cancer and receiving care in any healthcare setting were eligible for inclusion. Massage therapy had to include tissue manipulation. Outcomes of interest were patient-reported levels of physical and psychological symptom distress and quality of life measured by validated assessment tools.
Interventions in the included studies were massage alone or with aromatherapy. Control groups included no massage, quiet time, usual care, rest, sitting with masseuse or massage with carrier oil. Site of massage included shoulders, neck, face and scalp, feet, arms, legs alone or in combination. The proportion of participants who were female ranged from 36% to 100%. The mean age of participants ranged from 17 years to 88 years where reported. Cancer site and stage of included participants varied between studies. Participants received various chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for cancer. Instruments used to assess outcomes included the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Profile of Mood States (POMS), Visual Analogue Scale for nausea, McCorkle Symptom Distress scale, and other anxiety, depression, symptom or quality of life scales.
Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts. Full texts of studies were then independently screened for inclusion by three reviewers.