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Oncology Massage

 

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Massage for a Cancer patient makes an unbearable day bearable” 

 

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Karen Moore
Diploma of Remedial Massage

Australian College of  Remedial Massage  Sydney.
Diploma of Advanced Complimentary Therapies 
City of Bath College - UK.
Oncology Trained Therapist.

The Information on these pages has been taken directly form The Cancer Council site;  www.cancercouncil.com.au 

What is oncology massage?

An oncology massage is a client-specific, customized massage session designed to meet the unique and changing needs of someone in treatment for cancer or with a history of cancer treatment. A safe massage plan generally revolves around the side effects (both short- and long-term) of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Is massage okay during chemotherapy?

People undergoing chemotherapy may have a decrease in red and white blood cells, so with deep massage, there is a risk of bruising. Since deep massage can be taxing to a system already vulnerable from chemotherapy and radiation, it is not recommended for people currently in treatment, but light massage is best.  

What is massage?

Massage involves moving (manipulating) muscles and rubbing or stroking soft tissues of the body. There are many different styles of massage. Oncology massage therapists are specially trained to adjust pressure, speed, duration and direction of strokes to provide a safe session for a person with cancer at any stage of disease.

Why use massage?

All styles of massage aim to promote deep relaxation in tissue by applying pressure to the body’s muscles and pressure points. This helps to release both muscular and emotional tension. The style of massage used for people during or after cancer treatment will depend on the treatment they’re having.

Does massage spread Cancer?

Over the years, there has been a general concern that massage can increase the risk of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body. However, there is no evidence that this happens.

What to expect with a massage session?

Massage usually occurs in a warm, quiet room. It can be given while you either lie on a massage table or sit in a chair. The therapist uses a variety of strokes on different parts of the body. When performing massage on a person with cancer, therapists may need to adjust their pressure and avoid certain areas of the body.

Some styles of massage are done with you fully clothed; others require you to undress to your underwear so the therapist can use oil to move their hands over your skin more easily. The therapist may place pillows under different parts of your body so they’re supported. Let the therapist know if you need anything to feel more comfortable, such as a change in pressure or another blanket. You may like to close your eyes during the massage.

Evidence

Many scientific studies have shown that oncology massage is effective in reducing symptoms such as stress, pain, anxiety, depression, nausea and fatigue in people who have had chemotherapy or surgery for cancer.

Massage may be available in some hospitals and palliative care units. Ask your doctor or nurse if it’s offered at the centre where you are having your treatment. To find a private practitioner trained in oncology massage, visit Oncology Massage Training and enter your postcode in the “Find Your Nearest Therapist” box.

Massage concerns for people with cancer

Chemotherapy – This drug treatment affects the whole body. If you have a chemotherapy port, massage should not be done in this area. Some people who have chemotherapy experience tingling in their hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy), and may find they bruise or bleed easily. Massage should be light with no pressure on the affected areas.

Radiation therapy – The skin may be sensitive to touch after radiation therapy. It may look red and appear sunburnt. If you are having radiation therapy, you should avoid massage to the treated area as you may find even light touch uncomfortable. Massage oils may make already irritated skin feel worse.

Surgery – Recovery after surgery takes time, and it’s important to avoid massaging the area of the operation. However, gentle “lotioning” massage with soft hands or gently holding other areas can provide comfort and support.

Risk of lymphoedema – If you’ve had lymph nodes removed from the neck, armpit or groin during diagnosis or treatment, or if you’ve had radiation therapy to these areas, you should only have a very gentle massage in that area of the body.

Bone fragility – Radiation therapy or medicines, or the cancer itself, may cause the bones to become more fragile.

Why do people with cancer use massage?

As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer say that having a massage:

makes them feel whole again

helps them to relax

helps them share feelings in an informal setting

makes them feel more positive about their body

rebuilds hope.

Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissue does not spread cancer cells.

What are the benefits of massage?

Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. These studies have shown that massage may reduce:

pain

fatigue

nausea

anxiety and depression.

Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in:

sleep

the health of the scar tissue

quality of life

mental clarity and alertness

the range of movement.

makes them feel whole again

helps them to relax

helps them share feelings in an informal setting

makes them feel more positive about their body

rebuilds hope.

Is massage safe for people with cancer?

Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs and nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally as we move.

Cancer may spread (metastasise) 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’s range of movement.

 

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