What is Oncology Massage?
At its most basic, oncology massage is bodywork that is designed specific to the needs of people who are dealing with cancer and/or its treatments. The main focus is to enhance healing while “doing no harm” to people whose bodies are:
- dealing with lowered immune systems,
- at risk for developing lymphedema
- stressed by radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment(s), or recovering from surgery
Much more than a feel-good treat or relaxation technique, Oncology Massage Therapy can actually assist your body and spirit in their constant pursuit of restoring you to health. Oncology Massage Therapy can help with:
- lack of appetite,
- low blood counts,
- and numerous other side effects from chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgery.
This massage can also help to:
- boost the immune system
- strengthen compromised body organs and systems,
- build up blood counts,
- lessen depression, and
- enhance feelings of well-being.
How might an oncology massage be distinctive?
As most massages, it will be tailored to the individual client. However, several things may be different from a massage you might receive in a spa, for example.
- A detailed intake will be completed, including the kind of cancer you have (or had), your treatment history, your current treatment, any symptoms or side-effects you are experiencing, and any medical devices or lymph node involvement you might have.
- Light pressure and limited duration
- Any area of your body that has compromised lymph nodes will be honored with special techniques so as not to cause lymphedema
- Depending on issues specific to your body, the position you lie in will be modified to accommodate any surgical or radiation sites or specific medical devices you might have. (Maybe you still have that port for chemotherapy infusions.)
- Most importantly, you will be met with love, respect and a recognition of who you are and what your own healing process is.
What does the medical community say about massage?
"No single therapeutic agent can be compared in efficiency with this familiar but perfect tool... the human hand. If half as much research had been expended on the principles governing manual treatment as upon pharmacology, the hand would be esteemed today on a par with drugs in acceptability and power."J. Madison Taylor, M.D. 1908
"Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is a national leader in cancer treatment. Researchers recently surveyed patients who had therapeutic massage added to their treatment regimens. Over a three year period, results impressively confirmed the value of massage. Anxiety levels decreased by 52%, pain by 40%, fatigue by 41%, depression by 32%, and nausea by 21%. Researchers concluded that massage is a “markedly effective, uncommonly noninvasive and inexpensive way” to control symptoms for cancer patients." Adapted from “Better Living & Health”, Portland (Maine) Press-Herald, Summer, 2006
"Technical advances are important but we need to remember the difference between treating the disease and treating a patient. Massage is an extension of the time honored principle of laying on of hands. Massage therapy can help reduce stress, fears, and pain - all of this without side effects. Whether the mechanism of action of massage is physiologic or psychologic matters not to me. The fact that it makes the patients feel better and allows them to better deal with their illness or treatment is good enough for me." Roger E. Alberty, MD, Director - Department of Surgery, St. Vincent's Medical Center, Portland, Oregon quoted in McDonald Gayle, Medicine Hands; Tallahassee, Florida; Findhorn Press, 2007
"Massage therapy is not contraindicated in cancer patients, massaging a tumor is, but there is a great deal more to a person than the tumor." Bernie Siegel, MD
"Anxiety may worsen patients' perception of their physical symptoms or may lead to overestimating the risks associated with treatment. Because of under-treated psychological symptoms, patients with cancer may not follow through with treatment recommendations or may report a higher severity of physical symptoms."Lisa Corbin, MD, Safety and efficacy of massage therapy for patients with cancer, Cancer Control, 2005;12(3):158-164