The Benefits of Oncology Massage

What is oncology Massage?

Oncology massage is an approach to massage therapy based in both specialized massage treatments and compassion to help people manage their experience with cancer.
Review of the scientific literature (MD Anderson Cancer Center) indicates oncology massage helps improve the quality of life. Benefits include improved relaxation, sleep, and immune functions as well as relieving anxiety, pain, fatigue, and nausea.

Several clinical studies have shown that massage can reduce symptoms of depression. A systematic review (39) of studies on aromatherapy (Lavender Essential Oil) and massage for relieving symptoms in people with cancer found massage consistently reduced anxiety and depression.

Is Massage safe for people with cancer?

Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumor or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissues does not spread cancer cells.

Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. However, the circulation of lymph – from massage or some other movement – does not cause cancer to spread.

How is Oncology Massage used?

  • Oncology massage practitioners are trained to meet people where they are, wherever their experience with cancer is. They apply a highly individualized massage treatment to comfort and support the person through the process.
  • Oncology massage is now being offered from private practitioners, hospitals and hospices. Some patients are able to have chemotherapy and a hand of foot massage at the same time, or to have a massage after the treatment has been finished.

However it is true that precautions need to be taken. (Speak with your physician before having a massage session.) Because of the different contraindications for massage in this population, it is very important for the massage therapist who is treating a person with a history of cancer – either currently or in the past – to have specialized training in oncology massage in addition to being a licensed massage therapist.

Massage performed with appropriate knowledge and training can be safely given to cancer patients. No matter where they are on their journey with cancer, oncology massage can help.

Meet the Author

Lori Day

Lori Jane Day is a Massage Therapist with over 20 years experience. She is also a Holistic Health Practitioner, Certified Clinical Aromatherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Lori has worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, various Hospice Organizations.

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