Massage and its Effect on Hodgkins Lymphoma


Massage Affects on Hodgkins Lymphoma

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Hodgkin Lymphoma

Massage Affects on Hodgkin Lymphoma

Definition of the disease/disorder

A common definition of Hodgkin disease or Hodgkin Lymphoma is a form or type of cancer of the lymphatic system (“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009). It was first discovered or identified by Thomas Hodgkin in England in 1832 and is described as a form of malignant lymphoma. The lymph system includes “… lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and other parts of the body’s immune and blood-forming systems, such as the spleen and bone marrow” (Hodgkin Lymphoma: RelayHealth). Lymphocytes are created and stored in the lymph system. These are infection fighting white blood cells. Hodgkin disease is also known as being one do the most curable of all forms of cancer. “By the 1990s most newly diagnosed cases were curable “(“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009).

Demographic information

In terms of demographics, Hodgkin disease tends to occur mainly in two general age groups; the elderly over 55 years of age and in young adults and adolescents. “Incidence peaks in young adults and the elderly” (“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009). In this demographic one also has to distinguish between Hodgkin Lymphoma or HL and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As a 2008 Study by Hochberg at al. states,

Lymphoma is the most common malignancy among adolescents, accounting for >25% of newly diagnosed cancers in the 15 — 19-year age group. Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) accounts for the majority (two-thirds) of cases, while the remainder of patients have one of four subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

(Hochberg at al., 2008, p. 24)

Another important demographic is that this disease is the “…seventh most common type of cancer in the U.S.” And that “…non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) strikes more than 50,000 Americans every year, with the average age of diagnosis In the 60s ” (Produce May Protect Against Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, 2009, p. 6) .


There is evidence to suggest that one of the main causes of this disease is infection which is related to the Epstein-Barr virus (“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009). There are also studies which indicate a hereditary origin of the diseases. These findings have been based largely on the study of twins.

Until recently the view of the infectious origins of this cancer was generally accepted. As Eric ( 2008) states:

Its propensity to manifest as massive lymphadenopathy with spread to distant organs and fatal course argued for a neoplastic process, while presence of fever, waxing and waning size of lymph nodes and coexistence with other infectious processes such as tuberculosis and syphilis led some to believe it to be inflammatory/infectious in nature. (Eric, 2008, p. 1668)

However, this view has been revised in recent years to include other factors (Eric, 2008, p. 1668) . This cancer has also been linked to other factors and environmental influences, such as exposure to certain chemicals; for example, the defoliant, Agent Orange (“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009).

There is in essence no definitive causative factor that stands out in the etiology of this disease. However, there are certain common features that tend to emerge. These include the view that one is most at increased risk to this disease between the ages of fifteen to forty years and age and over fifty-five. There is also as greater incidence found in those with siblings who have this form of cancer and it is generally slightly more predominant in males rather than females.

Signs and Symptoms

The general and most common signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma are as follows:

painless swelling of lymph nodes, most often in the neck, but also in the armpits or groin fever night sweats weight loss for no known reason itching tiredness.

pain in the front of your chest when you drink.

(Hodgkin Lymphoma:RelayHealth, 2009)

One of the first and most obvious signs of this form of cancer is enlarged lymph nodes found in the area of the neck or armpit. In this regard a lymph biopsy might show “the multinucleated Reed-Sternberg cells peculiar to the disease” (“Hodgkin’s Disease,” 2009). Sudden weight loss for no apparent reason is also a warning sign of the possible presence of this lymphatic cancer.


One of the main complications associated with this disease is the aggressive forms of chemotherapy treatment. As one study notes, there is an increased danger of high toxicity after a certain period of treatment. “…higher toxicity takes higher toll in elevated morbidity and mortality rates after this period” (Efficacy and safety of the conventional treatment for Hodgkin’s: behind the hype, 2009). Related complications include increased fatigue. “… fatigue seems to occur in a high proportion of patients who are successfully treated for Hodgkin lymphoma” ( Fletchtner H. et al. 2009, p. 61).


One do the most significant aspects of this disease is that is negatively affects the lymphatic system, which means that the body because less capable of fighting infection. This is as central aspect that is related to the use of alternative or complementary medicines and therapies, as will be discussed in more detail below. The most common form of conventional treatments is radiation therapy and various chemotherapeutic agents are used in treatment. Treatment is also dependent on the stage of the diseases.

A modern method of treatment that is also practiced is biological therapy. This refers to the boosting of the immune system in response of the disease. On the other hand genetically engineered drugs such as Rituxan, involving monoclonal antibodies, has been approved for use against some slow-growing Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It is clear from the above that there are two general approaches to treatment. The one is invasive and aggressive, such as chemotherapy, while the other is more supportive of the immune system and holistic in nature. These two methods are not mutually exclusive but refer to different approaches. The one refers to Allopathic or Western medicine and the other to complementary or alternative methods of treatment.

Complementary and Western or Allopathic Medicine

In terms of treatment protocols and the approach to this disease we therefore have to distinguish between convention Western medicine and alternative or complementary methods of treatment.

Very briefly, complementary medicine is based on a more holistic and integrative view of cancer treatment than allopathic medicine. In other words, it is more holistic in its view of the way that disease functions in the body. This is also related to the perceived limitations of allopathic medicine in some regards.

A common definition of allopathic medicine is: “The system of medical practice which treats disease by the use of remedies which produce effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment” (Definition of Allopathic). This typical Western view of medicine does not always take cognizance of the body as a whole and is usually only concerned with the symptoms for particular areas of the body. Hasslberger ( 2006) states that,

For all its scientific rigor, allopathic medicine cannot hide the glaring inconsistencies that characterize it. Toxic medications, inattention to basic nutritional facts, out-of-hand rejection of new research and time proven traditional medical techniques and especially the prevalence of side effects from its own treatments have made modern western medicine one of the major causes of unnecessary death and suffering (Hasslberger, 2006).

Modern complementary medicine is of the view that any disease cannot be treated in isolation and the entire body and psyche of the human being should be involved in treatment protocols.

Massage Implications

In the light of the above remarks on the efficacy of complementary therapies and treatment it becomes clear that massage as a complementary method has certain advantages over more aggressive allopathic approaches to this disease. It has been found that massage not only relaxes the patient but that it is also conducive in boosting the immune system, which is a central factor in combating this disease.

As one study on this topic states; “Many complementary therapies — from vitamins and herbal therapies to massage and acupuncture — work well for persons with blood cancers, helping to relieve the side effects of the radiation and chemotherapy involved in the standard medical treatment of cancer” (Complementary & Alternative Therapies For Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, & Myeloma…) . Other studies and reports also endorse this view.” Massage to help decrease stress, anxiety, depression, pain and fatigue” (Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease), 2009). A study entitled Massage Therapy for Patients Undergoing Autologous Bone Marrow Transplantation, found that massage therapy has a significance in terms of the reduction of the anxiety levels of cancer patient and that this in turn positively affected the immune system and the process of recovery.”… the immediate effects of massage showed that patients in the massage therapy group demonstrated significantly larger reductions in distress, fatigue, nausea, and State Anxiety than the standard treatment group” ( Ahles, 1999, p. 157).

However, it should also be borne in mind that many contemporary studies emphasize the view that complementary therapies such as massage should be used in conjunction with more conventional allopathic methods for optimum results.

because many complementary and alternative therapies have not yet been studied, it is not known which are potentially helpful, which are potentially harmful. For this reason, it is important to speak with your doctor about any complementary or alternative therapies you are currently using or considering.


The prognosis for Hodgkin lymphoma has shown a gradual improvement over the years and today it is estimated that more than eighty percent of patients with this disease will recover with appropriate treatment. However, a central complicating factor and danger is the high level of toxicity that accompanies conventional treatment. This has also been linked to high levels of stress and anxiety.

While there is no proof that massage therapy can cure to reduce the risk of cancer, there is evidence that it helps alleviate stress and tension that accompany the treatment methods. Coupled with his is the fact that this disease is strongly linked to immune system response and in this regard it has been found that consistent massage therapy, as well as many other forms of complementary therapy, can stimulate immune response activity in the body.


Ahles T. ( 1999) Massage Therapy for Patients Undergoing Autologous Bone Marrow

Transplantation. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 18(3), 157-163.

Complementary & Alternative Therapies For Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, & Myeloma: No. 8 in a series providing the latest information on blood. Cancers (1999) Retrieved from

Definition of Allopathic. Retrieved from

ERIC D. ( 2008) Biologic features of Hodgkin lymphoma and the development of biologic prognostic factors in Hodgkin lymphoma: Tumor and microenvironment. Leukemia & Lymphoma, 49(9), 1668 — 1680

Fletchtner H. et al. (2009) Quality of Life in Long-Term Survivors

from Hodgkin’s Disease. Leukemia & Lymphoma, 17(4), 61 — 70.

Hasslberger S. ( 2006) Decline of Allopathic Medicine: Will Cellular Health, Ayurveda

Form New Paradigm? Retrieved from

Hochberg J. ( 2008) Adolescent non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma: state of the science. British Journal of Haematology, 144, 24 — 40

Hodgkin’s Disease. (2009). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York:

Columbia University Press. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from Questia database:

Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease) ( 2009). Retrieved from July 11, 2009

Hodgkin Lymphoma: RelayHealth (2009) Retrieved from

Produce May Protect Against Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma ( 2009) Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 27 (9), p6-6.

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