Why is it difficult to get a massage when you have cancer?

massage for cancer patients

You need never turn these clients away!

I hear it all too often that the majority of those who have been diagnosed with cancer usually face the struggles of finding a trained therapist that will help them to receive a massage treatment, this usually leads to them being turned away from salons and spas because they have cancer or a history of it.

However, it is never contraindicative to perform holistic therapies with the correct training on those that have cancer. A person that has been diagnosed with cancer, constantly finds it very difficult to receive holistic treatments, such as massage. There have been a series of negative myths, which comes as a result of misunderstandings about the nature of the illness and the medical treatments that are commonly given. The majority of those that have cancer are usually turned down whenever they go into spas, salons and clinics to get a massage treatment.

Various reports have been said that some of those with cancer have even gone as far to hide the fact that they are undergoing treatment for cancer just to get a massage, which clearly shouldn’t be so. Some of the other contraindications, therapists have the fear of massaging someone with cancer, thinking that it will lead to the spread of the cancer, they don’t really know that massage treatment can be very effective to those that have cancer.

The idea of therapists not seeing it fit to massage people with cancer is absolutely absurd, they see all of the myths as an excuse not to give massage treatment to these clients and the prime cause of this is simply the lack of education, without the proper knowledge of what adaptations are needed, it only leads to fear building inside of the therapists.

It has been a great relief that some medical organisations, hospices and of course I count myself in this, have taken astonishing steps to dispel these outdated myths and have installed complementary therapies with conventional medicine. We have been able to establish complementary therapy programs that will help to promote therapists on how to treat patients with, or recovering from cancer.

Safety Measures a massage therapist should take when dealing with people with cancer

Series of safety measures should be in check when massage therapists are dealing with people with cancer. Massage therapy that is usually given to cancer patients is completely different from the type that is given to people without cancer.

Therapists that are trained in oncology massage are the best and appropriate professionals that are needed to administer the therapy because they have a thorough understanding about the effect of cancer on the body.

However, before the massage treatment, a properly trained massage therapist usually performs a thorough consultation to come up with a treatment plan that will ensure the safety and well-being of the patient at every stage of their cancer journey.

It has been said that the Society for Integrative Oncology recommends the use of massage for cancer pain and anxiety, but cautions has been placed to avoid the use of deep or intense pressure near cancer lesions or enlarged lymph nodes. All UK cancer charities also have pages dedicated to recommending massage for cancer patients.

It has always been a myth that massage spreads cancer; the metastasis of the cancer cells is a complex interaction of structural, biochemical, hormonal, immunological, and genetic factors that control cell growth. However, inflammation, pain, or sensitivity to pressure are other reasons that massage therapists should use gentle touch and avoid direct or deep massage over a surgical or tumour site, or either in a limb distal to lymph node removal.

Massage therapists have been advised that deep massage should be avoided in fields of radiation, since the skin may be fragile and the underlying tissue may turn out to be fibrotic or oedematous. The use of oils and lotions should be avoided during massage treatment in these areas too.

Caution should be in place for patients with cancer-related pain. Massage will not resolve the pain resulting from pressure of the tumour on surrounding sites. The use of light-touch massage helps to reduce anxiety or distress, whereas deep massage can worsen the pain by increasing inflammation or causing fragile bones to break. The series of assessment before an oncology massage treatment that should be taken by a massage therapist are

  • Affected blood cell counts
  • Weak or unstable tissue
  • Location of cancer tumour
  • Risk of blood clots
  • Lymph node involvement

With all of the adequate safety measures put in place a more proper and safer massage treatment can be done for those that have cancer.

Training needed to help therapists massage people with cancer

Now for massage therapists to be able to help people with cancer so that they will never have to turn them down, they need to have some kind of training relating to it all, which then brings us over to an oncology massage certificate or training program that massage therapists need to undergo.

An oncology massage certificate or training program usually prepares therapists to treat cancer patients with massage bodywork. This program is very essential to therapists because it gives them a more dynamic understanding of how cancer patients can be helped through a massage. The certificate and training program require a therapist to have completed a massage therapy program and hold certification as a massage therapist before signing up.

The main purpose of the Oncology massage certification program is to teach the therapist various methods of how massage treatments can carried out safely. An oncology massage therapist may choose to work exclusively with cancer patients. This program solely puts more emphasize on the use of massage treatment to ease psychological and physical effects during cancer treatment. When a massage therapist has been able to complete the entire program then he/she will be able to help people with cancer and there will be no need to send them away.

Benefits of massage to cancer patients

There have been so many positive feedbacks from patients with cancer after a massage treatment, so it seems that there are various benefits that usually come when patients with cancer go for a massage.

A therapist trained in oncology massage has been able to provide a lot of positive effects ranking from relaxation to scar tissue mobilization to pain reduction, but the anecdotal evidence has been able to suggest that more benefits are prone to arise and be enjoyed by people with cancer after a massage treatment.

Patients with cancer can experience a lot of benefits which include.

  • Deep relaxation
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Less nausea
  • Reduced pain
  • Feel more alert and have more mental clarity

Patients have a lot to gain when they undergo a massage, so it’s the duty of a massage therapist to help them feel alive again, by welcoming them in whenever they come for a massage treatment, there is no need to turn them down when they come for a massage. Therapists can now fully help people with cancer now because they now know the safety measures to take and the training they have to go through to be of help with their clients with cancer.






2 thoughts on “Why is it difficult to get a massage when you have cancer?

  1. Good blog ! Yes people with cancer can get massages! I would add to get their doctors clearance first to be covered. I don’t understand why massage therapists turn down potential clients who have cancer ! We are in the healing field and should be helping people through massages! ?

  2. Hi

    I would appreciate help for my partner michael who was diagnosed in march with lung cancer whih had spread to lymp glands in his chest and also tumour on a kidney. He has received chemotherapy course with no problems and a short course of high dose radiotherapy which has left him with nausea vomiting lack of appetite and lethargy which he feels is the worse side effect. He also has lower back pain which has been put down to general wear & tear. We would really appreciate if he could receive massage or be directed to somewhere that could provide. We live in Perth. I look forward to hearing from you soon

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