Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2022

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 90 of 100

Remembering Dr. Cassileth An Oncology Massage Pioneer By Cal Cates 88 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 2 Massage therapy lost a passionate and deeply wise friend on February 26 of this year when Barrie Cassileth, PhD, died at the age of 83 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease. Born in 1938, she was a pioneer in many ways, not the least of which was in her approach to caring for people affected by cancer. And if you wouldn't call yourself an oncology massage therapist, that's alright. Dr. Cassileth can still be one of your heroes. I love her for so many reasons; one of those reasons is the research she conducted about the lack of relationship between a patient's attitude and survival rate. While she would not dispute that a patient's personal experience of their illness is affected by their attitude, she is famously quoted as saying, "For every anecdote about a cancer patient with a good attitude who lived, I can give you 200 about those who had good attitudes and died." She wanted to know what really mattered—what would really help people affected by cancer live better, if not longer, and how she could make those factors, those treatments, and that experience a standard of care. Before I go any further, you should know (if you don't already) that Dr. Cassileth and her fellow researcher Andrew J. Vickers, PhD, conducted what is still the largest study of massage therapy in cancer patients. 1 The study tracked 1,290 patients who received massage therapy over three years as part of their cancer care. Symptom scores (pain, anxiety, fatigue, nausea, depression, and "other") were reduced by approximately 50 percent, even for patients reporting high baseline scores. Outpatients did slightly better than inpatients and benefits persisted for outpatients beyond the 48-hour follow-up window. A study of this size and this impact has never been replicated in the oncology population with a massage therapy intervention. Even though this study was published in 2004, researchers break the rule about citing "old" research and include it among their citations in their publications to this day. Dr. Cassileth was a compassionate realist who valued the intersection of science and humanity. She knew that conventional treatment saved lives, but also that sometimes it didn't and that many times, even as it did, it brought with it an incredible burden of symptoms and essential skills | MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE LESLEY DAVIDSON/UNSPL ASH

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Massage & Bodywork - MAY | JUNE 2022