Good question. The short answer is, I’m Licensed in therapeutic massage by the Virginia nursing board (because we don’t have our own dedicated massage therapy Board in the Department of Health Professions.)
And as a Preferred Provider from the Society for Oncology Massage (s4om.org), I have taken advanced training classes to learn about safely adapting massage therapy for clients who are dealing with cancer.
To keep in touch with new findings relevant to cancer treatments, side effects and improving quality of life for people with cancer, I actively follow several organizations such as AiM at Melanoma, Susan G Komen, MD Anderson, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, CURE, Memorial Sloan Kettering… and more!
Although I can understand and relate with how it may feel when you’re going through cancer (I was in active treatment a few years ago), I’ll never claim to know it all. My education never ends 🙂 and your situation is unique.
So, at this time, we don’t have a specific certification for Oncology Massage Therapy (OMT). A therapist who has taken the advanced training, can join S4OM and be connected with like-minded massage therapists across the country. Through virtual learning, I’ve been able to meet some kind-hearted colleagues who work in many other states.
Special training is important to provide massage for cancer patients
One concern that you may have as a client: Not every massage therapist has been able to take oncology training (especially if they have not been out of school very long).
Although I’ve worked with some very talented, skilled newer therapists, they may not yet know what modifications are important in order to work with oncology clients. General massage school programs may not have taught their students what questions they need to ask you about your cancer treatment or side effects.
Also, some of the side effects from cancer treatments or surgeries can affect what massage is best for you, long term. For example, if you have ever had any lymph nodes removed or treated with radiation, your massage therapist needs to make adjustments in the way that they work with those areas — even if treatment was decades ago.
In the spirit of continuing to learn, there certainly are a plethora of classes that I want to enroll in to learn more about OMT. New perspectives to listen to. Webinars to watch. And new insights to gain about clients and what you are going through, and the best ways to help.
Plus there are many massage-related “sacred cows” that I like to challenge. For example: 20 years ago, a lot of people believed that someone who has cancer, could not receive a massage at all. Thankfully, we have learned that this isn’t true.
(Any cancer diagnosis definitely hands you a new normal, and I’m still working on what that really means in my own life, too.)
So… certified in oncology massage?
I’m excited to be able to offer massage for cancer patients, and grateful to be given the tools to adapt massage therapy so that it’s safe and beneficial. We will talk about your specific treatment and how it is affecting you.
Before your first appointment, I’ll send you a health history questionnaire — so please tell me what medications you are taking, and I’ll look them up to learn more about them.
I want to provide this massage service to help as many clients as I can. So many people are dealing with side effects from cancer, such as pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and fatigue. And massage therapy can mitigate some of those effects.
And we need more therapists to take oncology massage training courses, so that fewer clients will be turned away from getting a massage.
Please let me know if you have any questions about massage for people with cancer, or if you have concerns about whether massage therapy will benefit you.
JUST ADDED! Check out this list of more than 90 resources about cancer support, education, and treatment options.
Some of the resources are local to Hampton Roads, and some of them are national organizations. Many of them have helped me over the past 8 years, and they could be beneficial to you or someone you know.