CLEVELAND — October is known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Right now, the foundation said, there is currently no known cure for breast cancer, and its early diagnosis is critical to survival.
The most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. The goal of surgery, whether it's a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy or reconstruction, is to remove the tumor and nearby margins. But oftentimes following surgery, many women experience chronic pain and immobility of the shoulder or arm.
But a clinical trial from The MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University, in partnership with Gathering Place, is working to give breast cancer surgery patients their independence back.
The trial was backed and funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health. In the trial, massage therapists were using a technique called myofascial massage.
"They're randomized to one of two groups, the myofascial groups, who gets this deep tissue factual release and then a light touch group. And of course, we wish everybody could get the intervention, but as we're trying to just really test this out and in a true scientific fashion," said Jacquie Dolata, the project manager for the study said.
During the trial, about 20 women received the deep tissue myofascial massage over eight weeks that focused on the affected breast, chest and shoulder areas.
Jeanne Massingill, a massage therapist, helped develop the therapy.
"I studied myofascial release. A lot of my patients were coming in after breast surgery with issues and problems with pain, not sleeping. So I started working with them using some techniques and would find out what was working and what wasn't," she said. "A lot of women have problems because no matter what type of surgery you have, whether you have just a lumpectomy or mastectomy if you're having implants, there are different types of scar tissue."
Massingill said this specific tech technique helps those who've undergone surgery do everyday things again.
"So by doing this technique, we bring blood in there. We separate the scar tissue so that it can begin to function as normal tissue."
Dolata said the women who received the myofascial massage, or the intervention as they called it, reported significant improvements to their chronic pain and immobility following the bi-weekly massages.
"Everyone who got the intervention just was talking about how this was life-changing. And even those who were in the control group really felt that just the twice-weekly massages were just helping their sleep and their just overall well-being," she said.
Talina Morales, a breast cancer surgery patient, was one of the women who said she benefited greatly from the clinical trial.
"Honestly, since I started this clinical trial, and finished it, it's been life-changing," Morales said.
The now 32-year-old from Elyria was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. She is now in remission. Morales said following her surgery she suffered from nerve damage and immobility of her right arm.
She said now she feels like she has her life back again. Morales is suggesting the massage technique to others.
"It's just it gives you hope," said."You lose a lot mentally, physically through a diagnosis of breast cancer or any type of cancer, but just being given the opportunity to have another chance at life and feel yourself again. It really not only helped me physically, but it really helped me stabilize my mental health in giving myself that hope that I lost when I was diagnosed."
MetroHealth and Case were approved by NIH to continue their research and are recruiting women who've had breast cancer surgery sometime in the last two years who are experiencing pain and mobility. Their goal is to recruit 200 women over the next three years, said Dolata.
For more information and to see if you qualify, click here.