A new study has suggested that family caregivers can markedly cut down suffering in cancer patients at home with the use of simple touch and massage methods.
The study examined outcomes of a 78 minute DVD instructional program, titled "Touch, Caring and Cancer: Simple Instruction for Family and Friends", and illustrated manual in a multi-ethnic sample of patients representing 21 types of cancer, all stages of disease.
Their caregivers including spouses, adult children, parents, siblings and friends were also included in the project funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Lead author William Collinge, PhD, president of Collinge and Associates states, found family caregivers receiving brief home-based instruction could deliver some of the same benefits as professionals.
The research discovered that symptoms were reduced from 12-28 percent after reading, while massage from the caregiver led to reductions of 29-44 percent.
The greatest impact was on stress/anxiety with 44 percent reduction), followed by pain 34 percent, fatigue 32 percent, depression 31 percent, and nausea 29 percent.
Patients reporting an optional "other" symptom (e.g., headaches) saw reductions of 42 percent with massage.
Collinge said: "It appears that family members who receive simple instruction in safety and techniques can achieve some of the same results as professional practitioners.
"This has important implications not just for patient well-being, but for caregivers as well. Caregivers are at risk of distress themselves - they can feel helpless and frustrated when seeing a loved one suffer.
"This gives a way to make a difference for the patient, and at the same time increase their own satisfaction and effectiveness as a caregiver. It also appears to strengthen the relationship bond, which is important to both."
The findings were reported at the 6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology.