It is not uncommon for cancer patients to experience panic attacks or other manifestations of high anxiety. Jennifer Ashton, a clinical massage therapist and program coordinator at Mount Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center in New York City, is working hard to help patients cope with their pain and fear through alternative therapy like massage, meditation, yoga, and breathing practices. Joined by Sonima founder Sonia Jones, Ashton describes how she approaches massage with her patients and how massage in tandem with yoga and breathing can have profound benefits for patients.

Some clinical research shows that massage can reduce pain and fatigue, help ease depression, anxiety, nausea, and also improve sleep. According to Ashton, it also serves to create a sense of greater well-being. When we’re stressed, our system pumps cortisol throughout the body, and when we’re trying to recover from a surgery or a biopsy, for example, stress makes everything hurt even more. Part of Ashton’s approach therefore, is more about easing pain, rather than ‘fixing’ something that’s broken.