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Massage for cancer patients – the benefits of touch

Massage for cancer patients - Sage Institute of MassageWhen we are at our most vulnerable, the benefits of soothing, calming human touch brings relief like no other. It makes sense therefore, that for cancer patients undergoing treatment, therapies such as massage are warmly welcomed.

Massage is a complimentary therapy. It treats the whole person; it does not treat, nor cure the disease. However, when used in conjunction with mainstream medicine and conventional treatments, it is a wonderful adjunct.

Massage for cancer patients can also help reduce the side effects caused by cancer treatments and greatly increases the patient’s level of comfort and well-being.

Cancer patients have reported the following benefits after receiving massage:

  • increased relaxation
  • allows them to share feelings in a private environment
  • an increase in positive feelings about their body
  • ‘reconnection’ with their body and feeling whole again
  • increased feeling of hope and positivity

Massaging cancer patients’ soft tissues and muscles does not spread cancer cells. This is a common concern amongst many people, given that cancer cells can spread (metastasise) into the lymphatic system through the lymph nodes. However, there is an important distinction here.

Lymphatic circulation is normal and occurs naturally all day, as we move. The circulation of the lymph through lymphatic drainage and the encouragement of lymphatic drainage through massage doesn’t cause cancer to spread. Likewise, when lymphatic drainage is encouraged through the effects of massage, there will be no change or spread of cancer cells. Instead, researchers have found that cancer develops and spreads due to changes in the cell’s DNA – as well as other processes in the body.

In other words, you cannot manually push cancer or cause the spread of cancer through the body. The cells themselves must undergo a change.

Providing the massage is light and relaxing in nature, massaging those with cancer can be done at almost any stage. However, direct treatment of cancer sites or tumours should be avoided, and it is advisable to stay clear of sensitive internal organs.

Clinical studies and systematic reviews of massage for cancer patients

For individuals undergoing chemotherapy or cancer related surgery, there have been scientific studies that have noted massage can support a reduction in the following common side-effects:

  • fatigue
  • stress
  • nausea
  • depression and anxiety
  • aches and pains

After surgery, cancer patients have also noted improvements in their range of movement, reduction of scar tissue and improvements to sleep, quality of life and mental clarity.

People with advanced cancer

In 2011, a group of Italian researchers looked into the use of massage on those suffering from advanced cancer. They found it to be a cost-effective way of providing comfort and pain relief to the individual, as well as reducing anxiety and depression.

Where to have a massage

Where to have a massage - Sage Institute of MassageSome hospitals now offer treatments like chemotherapy followed an optional foot or hand massage. Others choose to have a massage with a private therapist at home, or in a clinic.

Some massage therapists choose to specialise in working as a massage therapist for cancer patients. This is known as oncology massage. This type of massage draws from various styles, is gentle, and is adapted to suit the individual. Various protocols are adhered to, such as pre-and post-surgical protocols, radiation and chemotherapy protocols, lymphoedema protocols and scar tissue protocols.

Sage Institute of Massage – is more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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