Massage therapy’s ability to mitigate breast imaging associated anxiety has not been previously studied. Anxiety is, however, often cited as a harm of screening mammography with few options offered to diminish anxiety other than not screening. Reducing anxiety may improve compliance, and reduce breast cancer mortality and morbidity. A complimentary massage therapy program evaluated patient acceptance, anxiety perception and perceived value of massage.
Over 10 weeks, verbal agreement was obtained from 113 breast imaging patients who desired a hand or shoulder/neck massage. Licensed massage therapists performed massages before, and/or during, or after, or in between imaging tests. After the massage, questionnaires assessed patients’ self-rated perceptions of anxiety before and after massage on a scale from 0 to 10. Participants’ age-group, reason for appointment, self-rated value of massage service, and willingness to return to and willingness to refer to the facility were reported. Changes in perceived average anxiety were estimated using a linear mixed effects model. Fisher’s exact test was used to evaluate associations among categorical variables.
A significant decrease in perceived anxiety was observed following massage (d = -3.2, p < 0.001). 107/108 (99%) of respondents reported an improved patient experience with massage. 84/106 (79%) reported willingness to pay at least $5 for massage service.
Massage therapy improves the patient experience and decreases perceptions of anxiety. It may be associated with improved breast imaging compliance. Patients’ willingness to pay for the service may defray some cost of a massage program.

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