What is Oncology Massage?

Oncology Massage is a specialized therapy designed to meet your needs if you have been affected by cancer. It’s adapted to be safe and beneficial for you.

Research suggests that massage can help cancer patients to deal with some of the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments.

Common side effects that could be lessened with massage therapy include pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and fatigue.

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I’m grateful to have taken special Oncology Massage training!

Society for Oncology Massage logo

What should I expect?

Choose a therapist who’s taken special training

From a client’s perspective, you want to go to a massage therapist who has studied advanced OMT coursework, which goes beyond the basics of a massage school program.

As an example, I’ve taken classes with well-respected instructors who are pioneers in the OMT field. Since they’re recognized by the Society for Oncology Massage (s4om.org), I’ve been able to join the S4OM also. We are constantly learning & sharing about new findings relevant to oncology palliative care.

You want them to ask for details about the cancer

Some of the questions I’ll ask you, may seem surprising. But your answers can make a big difference in planning the best massages for your unique circumstances.

Some treatments require lifelong adjustments with massages

And from my perspective as the therapist, I can be more confident that I’m working with you safely. There are some factors to consider when a client is going through active treatment, or has received treatment such as chemo or radiation in the past… even when your treatment was years ago.

We can work together to make a massage care plan

I can create a care plan for you, describing what goals we can set for your massages; how often you may want to get massage therapy; and what modifications we can make to ensure your sessions are as beneficial as possible.

Here are a few things that people frequently want to know about Oncology Massage:

Q: How is oncology massage different from ‘normal’ massage?

That’s a good question. One of the differences is, with oncology massage work, my main focus is on helping my clients with their symptoms and side effects… and some of their symptoms can linger for a long time after treatment. Massage therapy can be so beneficial for pain relief, anxiety, and more.

I make adjustments for the pressure, and some other factors. I’ll ask a few health questions about cancer treatment & side effects, so that the massage can help ease them.

Oncology massage therapists are taught how to modify massages if your vital organs have been affected by the cancer. Also, with OMT training, we learn how to work with our clients that have a risk of lymphedema. We learn precautions to take, so that these clients can still enjoy benefits of massage therapy.

Q: I heard that massage could spread cancer. Is that true?

You know, when I was in massage school in 2001, that is what we were told. A lot of people believed that the actions of massage would increase your circulation, and so they figured that tumors would be spread through your body. We were taught at that time that you could not work with someone who has cancer.

Fortunately, cancer research has since told us that cancer spread is due to many other complex factors. It is not an outcome of increased circulation. This is why many hospitals & treatment centers offer massage therapy to their patients who have cancer.

We definitely make informed adjustments with the massage, and we don’t massage directly over a tumor site, but cancer is no longer considered an absolute contraindication for massages.

Q: How can massage help people with cancer?

I can help my clients in several ways. Massage research suggests that massage can reduce anxiety, help with nausea, deal directly with pain, help with fatigue, and improve a client’s depression. These symptoms are considered “the big 5” with cancer treatment.

And also, massages can help my clients to sleep better; sleep is often disrupted when you are in treatment. And another thing is to provide my clients with safe, gentle, non-clinical touch. That’s huge when you are in the midst of treatment.

Q: Isn’t massage for cancer patients OK if you just work lightly?

Although it is very important for your massage therapist to use pressure that’s appropriate for your situation, there are other considerations too. That’s why you will want to work with a therapist who’s had oncology massage training.

My own diagnosis…

I’ll never say that “I know how you feel,” because everyone’s experience is different. But I can relate to some of the treatments you have gone through. I’ve had melanoma surgery & chemo in 2014… and basal cell carcinoma in 2019.

Do you have more questions about Oncology Massage Therapy? Check out these links below, or contact me and I’ll be glad to help.

Is Your Therapist Trained?

Info from Society for Oncology Massage