Massage for Cancer
No doubt that almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer or has a personal cancer story. Massage and bodywork are proven complementary therapies for managing the symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments, but not all massage therapists are prepared to responsibly work with the patient or survivor. There are many issues to address, and the therapists at Phoenixville Massage & Bodywork not only have the training, but also have experience working with active and remissive cancers, and have been involved with cancer support networks, including the Oklahoma chapters of the Young Survivors Coalition and the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.
For the cancer patient in the active fight of their life, massage and bodywork can be a welcomed respite to the challenges of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or recovery from surgery. Certain issues can present to the cancer survivor, in some cases, several years after active cancer treatment.
- Bones can be weakened by certain cancer treatments, making possible fractures occur.
- During the pharmacological regimen that often follows cancer treatments, muscles can be weakened to the point that deep tissue massage is contraindicated.
- Blood vessels can be compromised at the superficial and deeper within the body due to many cancer treatments, leading to easier bruising.
- Post cancer treatment pain is a huge issue – when the body is being challenged by cancer, it can respond with many varied forms of pain, some of which can be addressed with massage and bodywork.
- Joint discomfort (whether restricted range of motion or greater laxity) can be a symptom that can present after cancer treatment.
- Gastrointestinal issues can present as a result of any medical treatment, especially cancer, and positioning yourself comfortably on a massage table could be very challenging.
- Lymphedema can occur at any time after cancer treatment, and seemingly normal activities such as flying on a plane, or getting an injection can spark an occurrence.
- Gross (even chronic) fatigue can present after cancer treatments, and even though massage and bodywork can be relaxing, it can also help regulate the body’s reactions to stressors.
Perhaps one of the greatest affects of any cancer treatment is the feeling of separation between your body and your person. Feelings of “why did this happen to me” and other frustrations can lead a cancer patient to be unstable emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Massage and bodywork is an excellent way to address these issues from a mind/body perspective. Not that most massage therapists are equivalent to professional counselors, but in an emotionally and spiritually compromised state, you need to know that compassion from a massage therapists does not replace professional guidance. There are people that may take advantage of your situation and try to manipulate your state of mind during your recovery, the therapists at Phoenixville Massage & Bodywork want to be part of a treatment team, not the only source for care.
There is some confusion about the practicality of massage during cancer treatment. Some physicians and medical professionals have voiced concerns about massage and bodywork actually spreading cancers throughout the body. This has been a concern, and rightfully so, since massage and bodywork increases lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation. There has been quite a bit of research on this topic, and there is a link to a great article concerning this below. Another concern that the medical field has about massage during active cancers is that the medical profession does not know the specifics of (or the effects of) individual massage treatments. For that reason, if there are questions about what treatments we offer or may incorporate with our clients with active cancer, please contact us. We are willing to discuss this personally with you, come to your doctor’s office to provide an in-service for their staff, and provide detailed documentation about the individual treatment session (when appropriate, and ensuring HIPAA guidelines are followed).
Here are some good links on the topic of massage and cancer:
- Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer center. (pubmed)
- Role of massage therapy in cancer care.(pubmed)
- The American Cancer Society’s Page on Massage. (ACS)
- Could Massage Therapy Promote Cancer Metastasis? (MTJ)
- Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer (USN&WR)