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Oncology Massage - is it Safe?

Posted by Team NAT on

 

Maureen Abson - Oncology Massage Instructor  

 

Not only is correctly applied massage for someone with cancer not harmful, it can be incredibly helpful

For many years, having or having had cancer was seen as a contraindication to massage, unless it was end-stage cancer where the benefits of massage have always been recognized.

Even when someone had finished treatment and had been discharged from the care of the oncologist, massage could be denied.

This reserve and misconception is still evident in some of the available publications. For example: “Cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, and because massage increases lymphatic circulation, it may potentially spread the disease as well.”

A number of spas and clinics will still not massage people who have, or have a history of, cancer.

However, this is a view not now supported by the main cancer bodies and support groups.

Current Advice

The organization Cancer Research UK says “Some people worry that having a massage when you have cancer may make the cancer cells travel to other parts of the body. No research has proved this to be true.”

Macmillan Cancer Support says something very similar: “Some people worry that massage could cause cancer cells to spread to other parts of their body, but research has not found any evidence of this.”

Massage Today magazine states “Most massage therapy schools taught that cancer was a contraindication for massage. The two main concerns of how massage therapy could spread cancer involved its effects on circulation and the cancerous tumors. Research continues to dispute the original concerns that massage therapy can spread cancer. The support to dispute this myth grows each year through credible experts and numerous studies.”

The Cancer Council of New South Wales explains this further: “Cancer may spread (metastasize) into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops and spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA (genetic mutations) and other processes in the body.”

Not only is correctly applied massage for someone with cancer not harmful, it can be incredibly helpful.

Anxiety and Stress

Having a diagnosis of cancer is for most people a traumatic and isolating time. They may feel that they have no control over their body, that their body has let them down, and despite the very caring and careful work by oncology units, cancer treatments are “given” or “done to” the body.

High-tech and potent medical treatments can dominate life, while the worry about the outcome of both the disease and the treatments can take over the mind and cause extreme stress and anxiety.

Massage can provide a profoundly therapeutic touch during this time. The Cancer Council of New South Wales reports that receiving massage during cancer can have real positive benefits, including making the person feel “whole again.” It allows people to share feelings in an informal setting. It can help people feel more positive about their body and rebuild hope.

Benefits of Massage

A large American study looked at the effects of massage therapy on almost 1300 individuals with cancer over a three-year period. People in hospital had a 20-minute massage, and others treated as outpatients had a 60-minute massage session.

The study found that, overall, massage therapy reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. The benefits lasted longer in the patients who had the 60-minute session.

Summary

Many health care professionals recognize massage to be a useful noninvasive addition to standard medical treatments.

Therapeutic massage is most often given by trained massage therapists, although caregivers can also be trained in safe massage techniques.

 

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NAT Oncology Massage Course

 

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Oncology Massage Course

NAT Oncology Massage Course

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