Oncology Massage once considered taboo in the massage industry, massage for cancer patients is no longer considered contraindicated. There have always been many benefits considered to be promoted by massage, among them are increasing blood circulation in the tissues, moving toxins, and promoting lymphatic health.
In the year 2001 alone, the American Cancer Society estimated that 1,268,000 people in the United States lost their battle with cancer. Cancer has touched many lives, and will continue to do so. Cancer does not discriminate. Cancer attacks our husbands, our wives, our mothers, our fathers, our daughters, our sons, our sisters, our brothers, and our friends.
According to Cancer Nursing: A comprehensive Textbook, “At some point usually later in life, over 1 in 3 American women will be affected by cancer, and nearly 1 out of 2 men.” With these types of numbers, not many of us will escape unscathed by cancer’s wrath.
Cancer is an aggressive disease. Cancer not only attacks the body, but it also attacks the mind and spirit as well. It leaves a person feeling drained not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually as well. Massage Therapy is one way to battle the fatigue created by cancer and cancer treatments.
Oncology Massage Benefits
It appears the massage benefits of increasing circulation and detoxification were in the past thought of as reasons to not massage people with cancer – the myth being that it would spread the cancer. However, as doctors, body workers, and massage therapists become more informed about cancer, cells, and how cancer spreads, we find this mistaken idea to be unfounded. Malignant cells either migrate directly to the adjoining site of tumors or metastasize and spread to other sites. This is driven by genetic or environmental factors. Many activities such as walking and a hot bath increase circulation. If increased circulation caused spread of cancer, the medical research field would warn against activities at all – and they clearly do not.
In fact many doctors and hospitals recommend and facilitate programs for bodywork and massage as a matter of course for post-surgical cancer patients. Research studies are appearing in medical journals and are funded by entities such as the National Institutes of Health. The American Cancer Society views bodywork and massage therapy as important complementary therapies for cancer patients. Practitioners and patients have documented many benefits of bodywork and massage during the cancer treatment and healing process. Some areas of improvement are a minimization in the formation of scar tissue, help in preventing lymphedema (painful swelling of the limbs common in breast cancer patients), improved range of motion, survival of skin during radiation therapy, and a drop in pain and fatigue levels. Massage and bodywork have provided patients with a more calm and assembled sense of control and well-being during the fragmenting process of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
When receiving massage on a weekly basis, people living with cancer have reported:
- A decrease in nausea
- An increase/improvement in
- Skin Conditions
- Feelings of Well-Being
The Benefits of Massage Therapy
These are also several reasons why massage therapy is great for everyone, but especially beneficial for people living with cancer and cancer therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) are all very aggressive and invasive treatments. These treatments can often leave a person feeling fragmented. Oncology massage helps by putting some of those fragments back together, making a person feel whole again in mind, body, and spirit. People living with cancer should seek out a oncology massage therapist that has been specifically trained to work with people living with cancer. There are many forms of bodywork and massage and many variables in a patient’s stage of cancer, treatment, recovery, and physical tolerance. These are the factors to take into consideration when using oncology massage as a part of the comfort/healing process.
About Our Wellness Massage
At Acu-Na Wellness Center, our founder Mary Houge is a licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist. She has advanced certifications for both oncology massage and oncology acupuncture. She created a specific massage for oncology patients and anyone else that wants to support their immune system. This is called our Wellness Massage. This unique massage protocol uses warm stones to activate specific acupuncture/acupressure points know to activate the immune system. This massage is extremely relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.
Some other appropriate techniques include cranial sacral therapy, polarity therapy, reiki and Therapeutic Touch. In her book Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People Living With Cancer, Gayle MacDonald writes “no matter how severe the cancer treatment’s side effects, a way can always be found to administer some type of bodywork”. According to massage therapist and former oncology nurse Cheryl Chapman, while it’s important to receive touch from a qualified practitioner who has worked with cancer patients before, “Touch is always appropriate — there isn’t anyone who is untouchable.”