Massage therapy helps rub out stress for cancer patients


Sometimes a therapy not often associated with cancer care can make a huge difference in a patient’s recovery. Massage therapy at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) complements standard cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. One patient says it’s improving his quality of life dramatically.

Jim Dreyfous was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. A successful business owner, he had a hard time slowing down to fight the disease. He knew his hectic lifestyle wasn’t helping his health. “I left my job, and I decided that I was really going to focus my life on keeping well and staying alive as long as possible,” he says.

He started receiving massage therapy at HCI’s Wellness and Integrative Health Center once a week and immediately felt a difference in his stress levels. “I think the best thing people who have cancer or chronic disease can do for themselves is to reduce stress,” Jim says. “If you can spend an hour getting a massage, you can reduce your stress.”

His massage therapist, Tammi Sparks, agrees. “When patients reconnect within themselves, they're able to balance everything out—just get away from the world and relax,” she says.

Tammi works with each patient to help ease pain. A massage session can include focusing on a specific area or working on the entire body. She adds, “We have had patients come in where they've been in a lot of pain, and when they leave they're able to stand upright!”

She says patients come in with nausea, fatigue, and anxiety. Massage can help with all of those issues.

Cancer is still a part of Jim’s life. It spread to his bones in five different areas of his body. However, he is currently participating in a clinical trial, and the cancer has not grown since he began the trial in 2013.

Jim says between the trial and his weekly massages, he feels optimistic about the future. “I want to be a grandfather. I want to see some grandkids,” he says. “I think I have more things to do in life.”

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit