WHAT IS ONCOLOGY MASSAGE THERAPY?
Oncology massage therapy is designed to meet the unique and sometimes changing needs of people with cancer and cancer histories. Massage therapy is adapted to symptoms of cancer, and any short- or long-term side-effects of cancer treatment. Sessions are designed to ease common side-effects of treatment, so oncology massage therapists ask clients about cancer treatment along with general health questions.
III. HOW CAN IT HELP?
Our clients tell us that oncology massage helps with pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. They tell us that it supports good sleep. Oncology massage helps ease stress and promote relaxation. They tell us massage gives them “a vacation from cancer.” Post-treatment, clients use it for ongoing wellness and well-being. When I was going through breast cancer I received massage throughout all stages, surgery, chemo and radiation, I found it to be true, for me, that massage helped to relieve my pain, anxiety and helped me to sleep.
Friends and family value oncology massage because it helps loved ones during a difficult time. By arranging for oncology massage, they can support a friend or family member from far away. I had a friend who gifted me with a massage package and I don’t know if she knows how much that meant to me. It gifted me an hour that was mine, away from cancer, that was good for me, that I didn’t have to worry about paying for. Caregivers are relieved that their loved ones can receive skilled touch during challenging treatment or after uncomfortable procedures.
Physicians, nurses, and other health care providers support oncology massage as part of integrative care for the whole person. They say that massage therapists can bring comfort and ease isolation for both inpatients and outpatients in treatment.
Researchers have studied oncology massage. There is a growing body of research on oncology massage, and the results of clinical trials and in-hospital massage programs are promising. Research suggests massage can help with pain, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, and even depression in people with cancer.
Hospitals and cancer care centers provide oncology massage in growing numbers. Patients request it, and clinicians and administrators find support for it.
III. CAN MASSAGE SPREAD CANCER?
- This was an old myth in massage therapy, but it hasn’t held up to the science of cancer spread
- The myth was based on the notion that massage, by increasing circulation, would speed up spread
- Both exercise and movement increase circulation, and both are typically encouraged in cancer care
- If circulation increase from exercise is safe, circulation increase from massage would be safe
- MTs do not press directly on accessible solid tumor sites, and ask for info about tumor sites to avoid disturbing them
What should I expect on my first massage therapy visit?
You will enter a relaxing atmosphere so that you may feel comfortable during your massage and leave soothed and revitalized.
First, you will fill out a client intake form, if an oncology massage this form will ask about cancer treatments and medical history since sessions are designed to ease common side-effects.
Once the interview is completed, the therapist will leave you in privacy to undress. You will undress to your comfort level, so you can be relaxed during your session. (The therapist will work around your clothing if necessary.) Once you are undressed, you will get on the massage table and cover yourself with a sheet. The therapist will come back into the room and begin your massage.
At all times you will be covered by a sheet. Only the body part being worked on will be uncovered at that time (ex: your arm will be covered then uncovered).
Should I give the therapist feedback during the massage?
This is your time, an hour out of your life just for you, please speak up if you want anything changed! Are you too hot or too cold, is the massage too light or too deep? Let the therapist know!
Your therapist wants this to be an effective and relaxing experience for you, so don’t worry about asking for something that will make you more comfortable.
Why does a massage therapist ask about my medical history?
There are certain medical conditions for which massage is contra-indicated (untreated high blood pressure would be one example) It also provides information that can help the therapist chose the most effective technique to relieve whatever issues you may have.
For oncology massage and lymphatic drainage massage, a medical history is important in order for the therapist to design a session that is safe for you.
It is also important to list any allergies so the therapist is aware they need to use a different oil or lotion during the session.
How long will a massage session last?
The most common full-body session is one hour. A half-hour appointment only allows time for a partial massage session, such as upper body; head, neck and shoulders. Many people prefer a 60 to 90-minute session in order to have specific issues addressed and for optimal relaxation. We suggest you leave some extra time after your session to relax before having to return to the real world.
What should I expect after the massage?
The therapist will leave the room allowing you a few minutes to continue to relax and get dressed in privacy. Once you are ready, the therapist will re-enter the room.