Living with cancer blog

The importance of human touch for cancer patients

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. December 1, 2012

Close your eyes and remember the last time someone held your hand for a while. Remember the warmth of their skin and how it instantly made you relax? Human touch is powerful and can be an excellent way to bring your stress level down a notch or two.

Touch can relieve pain, reduce blood pressure and stress hormones, and improve the immune system. At Mayo Clinic, we've begun a program that provides a short hand massage for cancer patients to help them relax while they're receiving chemotherapy.

The program has been a huge success. It's the perfect example showing that simple human touch can make such a big difference for people.

It seems that as we experience touch, we focus on the feeling, warmth and relaxation it provides instead of focusing on any worries, anxieties or pain. Any time we can refocus our mind to a relaxing place it has a positive effect on the body.

Explore adding more touch to your day. You can do this by reaching out to friends and family members as you talk or greet each other. If you feel comfortable, add a little touch to the arm or a short hug as you first see them.

Hold your grandchildren in your lap or snuggle close while you read together. Hold hands or walk arm in arm with the one you love — it all makes such a difference.

Consider other ways to get a dose of human touch such as a relaxing massage from a trained professional. As always, check with your oncologist or doctor first if you need to take any special precautions when receiving a massage.

Share your thoughts on how touch makes a difference to you.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Dec. 01, 2012