Helping My Clients Cope with Anxiety & Stress from Cancer

woman wearing hat. she may have anxiety & stress from cancer treatment.

When you are going through a course of cancer treatment, many people find that their stress and anxiety levels can go up exponentially.

You may be experiencing some or all of these things:

  • Physical symptoms such as back pain, tight shoulders, or headaches that feel connected to your stress
  • Emotional symptoms such as depression, feeling on edge, or worrying about what comes next
  • A feeling that doctor’s appointments, treatments, & cancer have taken over your calendar

Anxiety can cause tension in your body when you’re going through cancer treatment

Whether you have received massage therapy in the past, or you’re new to massage, I would love to help you. Therapeutic massage can be one way to ease your anxiety, stress, and tense emotions that manifest in your body as side effects of going through cancer.

When you come in for a session, some clients have said that it feels like a respite, a “vacation from cancer.” You can look forward to a calm, peaceful environment where you can rest, relax with music, and get some help with whatever muscle tension you have.

Massage therapy and cancer

Frequently people will ask, “What’s the difference between regular massage and oncology massage?” And one of the main differences is this: we will talk about your cancer treatment, and how it is specifically affecting you. I can make adjustments to ensure that you feel better after your massage session, and not worse.

Even if you’ve finished active treatment, it’s a good idea to let your massage therapist know about your diagnosis. We’ll talk about ways to modify your massage so that it’s the best it can be for you. For example, if you’ve had any lymph nodes removed or treated with radiation, that is important to tell me.

Where can you find the best massage for cancer patients?

As a member of the Society for Oncology Massage, I’ve taken some great continuing-education classes about how to provide a safe massage for someone who is experiencing cancer treatment (or who has a history of cancer).

What is the best massage for cancer patients? Linda Boyer is a Preferred Practitioner with the Society for Oncology Massage.

20 years ago, when I was in massage school, we were taught that you couldn’t work with cancer patients at all. Some thought that massage would spread the cancer. But — thankfully — we are learning more & more that this belief was not justified by scientific evidence.

There’s a growing body of research that supports massage and other complementary therapies as a way to help ease anxiety and stress – including the anxiety that’s frequently experienced by someone with cancer!

Just Added: Cancer Support Resources

Here’s a list of more than 90 resources about cancer, related health topics, different treatments, emotional support, and financial information. They could also be helpful to you, your family, or your caregivers. Some of them are local in Hampton Roads, and some of them are national organizations.

What you can expect from your massage

Some of the ways that I will tailor your massage to reassure you if you’re going through stress and feeling anxious:

  • You can ask any questions that you have; before, during, or after your appointment. I’ve worked with many clients over the years who had not had a massage before. No need to be embarrassed if you don’t know what to expect! I’m glad to help you feel welcome.
  • I want you to feel heard, understood, and empathized with. This massage session is about you and what your needs are, but I can relate to some of your experience on a personal level. I have gone through cancer treatment too, and you can ask me about that if it would help you at all.
  • When a client comes in, I do my best to provide a calm, peaceful therapeutic atmosphere and a supportive presence. I’m not chatty by nature – if talking helps you to settle in and relax, you certainly can do so – but you don’t have to worry about keeping up a conversation during your massage.
  • Again, please feel welcome at all times to ask any questions you have about massage for cancer patients and the ways that your treatment is affecting you. And please let me know in the moment if changing something would help you feel better and more relaxed.
  • The speed of your massage, the pressure, what areas of your body we focus on, the direction of massage strokes, accommodations for any medical devices you have – these are all examples of some of the factors I’ll take into consideration to help you the most.

Massage and cancer

Be assured that even while going through a cancer diagnosis, you can still get a massage and feel benefits from it. You’ll be best served by a therapist who has taken oncology training, so that they’re prepared to know what adjustments are appropriate for you.

By all means, I want you to have a positive experience when you come to my office. I certainly don’t know everything, but I want my clients to feel confident about working together. It’s a privilege to assist you in reducing your anxiety & stress from cancer.

Quiet Strength is a supportive environment for you

If you have any questions about oncology massage, or would like to book an appointment, please contact me today!

“Are you certified in Oncology Massage?”

Massage for cancer patients working with client's leg

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.)

Society for Oncology Massage logo

And as a Preferred Provider from the Society for Oncology Massage (, 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.


click here to book an oncology massage