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oncology massage

What is Oncology Massage?

Oncology massage is the adaptation of massage techniques to safely nurture the body of someone affected by cancer or its treatments.

Oncology massage provides comfort-oriented massage or touch in an effort to soothe, nurture and piece the body together. All people living with cancer or recovering from its treatment – regardless of the severity of their condition – can receive some form of comfort-oriented therapy.

An oncology client is someone who is

  • ​In active cancer treatment or recent recovery

  • Recently finished with their cancer treatment

  • Has a history of any type of cancer treatment

  • Completed cancer treatment many years ago

The benefits of oncology massage

  • Oncology massage is an approach to massage therapy based in both compassion and specialized massage treatments to help people manage their experience with cancer.

  • Review of the scientific literature indicates oncology massage helps improve quality of life. Benefits include improved relaxation, sleep, and immune function as well as relieving anxiety, pain, fatigue and nausea. Oncology massage therapists are trained to meet people where they are in their experience with cancer and apply a highly individualized massage treatment to comfort, nurture and support them in their process.

  • The treatments are modified according to the full spectrum of cancer-related issues: the physical, psycho-social and emotional consequences of cancer. In addition, the person's individual goals are considered and aspects of the disease and cancer treatment side effects.

  • Personal goals for receiving oncology massage can include the desire for a respite -- a relaxing pleasurable experience in the midst of everything that is going on -- relieving nausea or other symptoms such as pain or peripheral neuropathy and helping them get though the remainder of their cancer treatments.

An oncology-trained massage therapist or esthetician will adapt for

  • Low blood cell counts

  • Blood clots

  • Bone metastases

  • Radiation or surgery

  • Fatigue or bone pain

  • Removal of lymph nodes

  • Lymphedema

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Skin, hair and ail changes

  • Medications

  • Medical devices

  • Late and long-term effects of treatment

What is oncology massage goals?

The goal of oncology massage and skin care treatments is to provide therapeutic services that are safe, satisfying, supportive, nurturing, soothing, healing, and undemanding.

Can massage spread cancer?

It is well documented that massage does not contribute to the spread of cancer. Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells via the lymphatic system, the body's immune system. Our lymphatic system is a network of nodes and vessels through which lymph or lymphatic fluid flows.

Is Massage safe for people living with cancer?

Yes! The Society for Oncology Massage and the American Cancer Society state this in very clear terms. A properly trained oncology massage therapist can provide safe and effective massage for any person at any stage of their cancer journey: during and after treatment, in remission, cure or at the end of life. Oncology massage is a complementary therapy (not meant to replace conventional medical care, but to work along side it) and has many benefits.

Is it important for my massage therapist to have special oncology massage training?

Even with a doctor’s order it is best for the client to see a trained oncology massage therapist who will know the appropriate questions to ask to make safe adjustments to the massage and who will often include the physician in the massage care plan conversation if needed. Increasingly, facilities that offer oncology massage are requiring therapists to have advanced instruction in this area. They may require a particular training, or a certain number of hours or clinical experience.

Are massages good for cancer patients?

Studies have shown that massage therapy can be beneficial for cancer patients both during and following treatment. Massage therapy can counteract many of the negative physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment for patients.

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