How Oncology Massage Supports the Virginia Cancer Plan (Part 2)

Group of people wearing multicolor sweaters, with hands joined together in a circle.

Oncology massage is an important part of a multi-disciplinary approach to help cancer patients.

And since I’m part of CACV (Cancer Action Coalition of Virginia), I’m excited to share how oncology massage contributes to the 2023-2027 Virginia Cancer Plan. For example, my work can help with these Plan goals:

  • Eliminating barriers to treatment
  • Supporting survivorship and palliative care
  • Long-term care and support for survivors of childhood or AYA cancer

Eliminating Barriers to Access Massage Therapy

In the not-so-distant past, clients often faced barriers that prevented them from getting massages during cancer treatment.

When I was in massage school 20 years ago, we were told we couldn’t work on anyone who had cancer. Later, while I was working at a spa, a client who had recently completed chemo was in tears. He explained I was the first therapist in over a year who had agreed to give him a massage.

We’ve learned that cancer patients CAN get massages

In the massage profession, we’re continuously improving our understanding of massage and cancer. In the past, many people believed that massage wasn’t safe for cancer patients; therefore, some spas and clinics would turn clients away, based on that belief.

Society for Oncology Massage logo with Preferred Practitioner text.

Since then, we’ve learned modifications that keep massage safe for our clients who are at risk or immunocompromised. I’m a preferred practitioner with the Society for Oncology Massage. Our organization brings together therapists who have taken advanced training and want to serve this special group of clients.

Enrolling in oncology massage courses is crucial for us to be prepared for the needs of clients with cancer histories. (So I’d encourage my colleagues to check out classes on the Society for Oncology Massage website.)

In my massage practice, cancer patients feel accepted and supported. My goal is to ensure that massage therapy is accessible, regardless of your cancer diagnosis.

Green and multicolor batik graphic with text: A client says after her first oncology massage, "Just what I needed. Awesome."

Promoting Evidence-Based Information about Massage and Cancer

Knowledge is power! And for massage therapy and cancer care, I’m committed to sharing evidence-based, reliable information with you. Through my website, social media, & conversations, I want to provide accurate, up-to-date resources! That way, you can make informed decisions about booking an appointment.

I rely on reputable sources like the Cleveland Clinic, National Institutes of Health, or Mayo Clinic for health-related information. Also, PubMed is a trustworthy resource where we can find a growing body of massage-related research.

Massage certainly is not a substitute for medical treatment. Therefore, I don’t make any claims about cures or healing! My goal is to support your treatment as a complementary health practice.

Being Clear about what Massage Can (and Cant) Do

Transparency about how massage can help you (with its limitations) is crucial. That’s especially true if you’re in chemo or radiation. At your appointment, we’ll make a plan so that we address your concerns and you’ll get your best possible massage.

I’ll guide you through the potential benefits, such as pain relief, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep. We’ll discuss the limitations of massage therapy, ensuring you’ll have realistic expectations.

Oncology massage client lying on her left side on comfortable massage table while therapist works with her right shoulder.

Some of my clients have ports, aren’t able to lie face down, or prefer to elevate their head & shoulders. No problem! I keep various pillows & towels on hand to make sure you’re comfortable. If you’re unable to be face-down on the table but would like your back massaged, lying on your side is an option.

Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have about massage and cancer. Rumors? Concerns? They’re all welcome to discuss here. I don’t know it all! But I’m more than willing to ask experts, look up research studies, and see what we can find out. Your trust is invaluable to me.

Optimizing Quality of Life for People with Cancer

Chemo, radiation, and other treatments take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. According to the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, patients commonly report feeling overly tired and emotionally stressed. Fortunately, oncology massage has so many benefits for stress, depression, and anxiety; you can expect a peaceful, calm environment in my massage room.

How I support survivorship and palliative care

According to the NCCS’ national 2023 State of Survivorship survey, 6 out of 10 respondents reported they used integrative care (complementary health). Their primary focuses were well-being and coping with mental health issues resulting from cancer.

Among folks surveyed who used massage therapy, 56% of them stated it was “very effective”. I’m excited by that result! It’s an honor to offer my oncology clients caring, nonclinical touch and to help them relax and destress.

  • Some clients have described massage as a vacation from cancer. If you’re accustomed to receiving massages in the past, it’s something that can help you feel somewhat normal — like yourself again.
  • Also, as the client, you’re always in charge: it’s up to you what areas of your body we should focus on during your massage.
  • I tailor your session to address your unique needs and challenges. We can focus on pain relief and symptom management; but if you just want to relax and enjoy some downtime, that’s great too.
Group of four friends watching sunrise in the mountains with arms around each other's shoulders.

Access to Lifelong Supportive Care

A person diagnosed with cancer as a child or young adult may experience significant long-term side effects. These physical symptoms and emotional challenges may require extra care and support throughout life.

I offer massage services to help cancer survivors with their lifelong journey. When someone has health challenges, I’m here to offer support, comfort, and compassion.

Conclusion: Let’s get the word out!

One barrier for cancer survivors who haven’t tried massage therapy (or other forms of complementary health) may be a lack of awareness. Nearly a third of the NCCS survey respondents were unaware of these services or the benefits other patients experienced. Will you please spread the word?

With the Virginia Cancer Plan, massage therapy can be a game-changer. By eliminating barriers, offering evidence-based information, maintaining clear communication, optimizing quality of life, and being present with long-term care and support, I’m dedicated to helping you feel comfortable and empowered.

*Header image by Hannah Busing on Unsplash; Group image by Helena Lopes on Unsplash.

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