USE OF HEALING TOUCH FOR SUPPORTING CANCER CARE
The diagnosis of cancer often brings feelings of fear, anxiety and loss. The treatment phase of the disease focuses on the destruction of cancer cells and can often have an impact on healthy tissue. Healing Touch is able to provide a supportive environment for persons undergoing treatment for cancer. It also may help decrease some of the side effects of treatment and help improve quality of life.
In this study by Cook and colleagues (1), women receiving radiation treatment for gynecological and breast cancer were randomly assigned to either a Healing Touch or control group. Those who received Healing Touch demonstrated better quality of life with significant differences in levels of vitality, pain and physical functioning. In another study (2), massage therapy, Healing Touch and presence were compared during cancer treatment. Both massage and Healing Touch significantly reduced levels of pain and mood disturbance. There also were decreased levels of fatigue in the Healing Touch group.
A number of programs for persons undergoing cancer treatment developed out of an innovative cancer support program called Bosom Buddies in Hawaii in the mid 1990s. In this program, women with breast cancer were offered Healing Touch over the course of their treatment. The success of this program has spread across the United States and now has various names including Healing Partners (Stanford Hospitals), LifeSpark Cancer Resources (Denver, Colorado), Healing Touch Buddies (Jupiter, Florida), and the Healing Touch Buddies Program (Amsterdam, New York).
Healing Touch can often provide a sense of comfort and connection during difficult cancer regimens. After recovery, cancer survivors often learn Healing Touch and participate in service programs for cancer patients as a way to give back to others the benefits they perceived from receiving Healing Touch.
- Cook, C.A.L., Guerrerio, J.F., Slater, V.E. (2004). Healing Touch and quality of life in women receiving radiation treatment for cancer: A randomized controlled trail, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 10(3), p. 24-41.
- Post-White, J., Kinney, M.E. Savik, K., Gau, J.B., Wilcox, C. & Lerner, I. (2003). Therapeutic massage and Healing Touch improve symptoms in cancer. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2(4), 332-344.
Preservation of immune function in cervical cancer patients during chemoradiation using a novel integrative approach
Published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity in 2010, this study by Susan Lutgendorf and colleagues at the University of Iowa compared the effects of Healing Touch, relaxation training or usual care in women with cervical cancer undergoing chemoradiation therapy. The investigators examined the effects of these three treatment arms on (1) cellular immunity, (2) mood and quality of life, and (3) treatment-associated toxicity and delay of treatment in these patients. Individuals in the Healing Touch group received 4 sessions per week for 6 weeks. Participants in the Healing Touch group had a minimal decrease in the number of natural killer cells (a marker of immune function) compared with participants in the relaxation therapy and usual care groups, whose natural killer cell numbers declined sharply. Additionally, those in the Healing Touch group experienced greater decreases in measures of depressed mood compared with individuals in the relaxation training and usual care groups. No significant differences between groups were observed in quality of life, treatment delay, or treatment-associated toxicity. For more information, the published article can be found using the following link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010350/.
Lutgendorf, S.K., Mullen-Houser, E., Russell, D., Degeest, K., Jacobson, G., Hart, L., Lubaroff, D.M. (2010). Preservation of immune function in cervical cancer patients during chemoradiation using a novel integrative approach. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 24, 1231-1240.