The healing power of touch can help us navigate our healing journey in a powerful way, allowing us to take control of the “dis-ease” in the body by using the benefits of touch to facilitate the healing process. Oncology (Cancer) Massage is gentler than a regular “Swedish Massage,” and no deep bodywork may be done. Oncology Massage is offered only by Licensed Massage Therapists who are trained specifically in Oncology and Mastectomy Massage.
What is Oncology Massage?
According to Society for Oncology Massage – www.S4OM.org –
“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.”
Oncology massage can only be provided by a massage therapist who has received training in the specifics of cancer and cancer treatment. This training is more about cancer and less about massage. When you are receiving an oncology massage, you are receiving traditional, established massage therapy techniques that have been adapted to account for your unique health situation. The changes that might be made to a massage that make it an “oncology massage” can fall under any number of categories, but typically they will be related to session length, pressure, positioning and areas of specific compromise or concern like mediports, bone metastases or skin reactions to treatment.
Oncology massage is now available in many of the world’s leading cancer hospitals. Oncology massage training addresses the full spectrum of cancer-related issues: the physical consequences of cancer, the side effects of various treatments, and the psycho-social and emotional considerations. An oncology massage therapist will adapt his/her massage therapy techniques to the specific needs of your patient.”
Concerns about Oncology Massage:
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institute of Health, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cancer-in-depth
“Studies suggest that massage therapy may help to relieve symptoms experienced by people with cancer, such as pain, nausea, anxiety, and depression. However, investigators haven’t reached any conclusions about the effects of massage therapy because of the limited amount of rigorous research in this field. People with cancer should consult their health care providers before having massage therapy to find out if any special precautions are needed. The massage therapist shouldn’t use deep or intense pressure without the health care providers’ approval and may need to avoid certain sites, such as areas directly over a tumor or those where the skin is sensitive following radiation therapy.”
Benefits of Oncology Massage:
- Provides relaxation
- Offers stress reduction
- Aids comfort
- Helps begin the healing process
- Improves quality of life
- Minimizes side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
- Relieves pain and edema, especially from surgery
- Restores vital energy
- Reduces fatigue
- Allows reconnection of body, mind and spirit
- Promotes removal of toxins in the body
- Increases oxygen, blood flow and circulation
- Boosts the immune system
- Sets the body up to heal more quickly
- Reduces scar tissue
- Increases range of motion and mobility
- Stimulates the nervous system
- Restores feeling and sensation
- Promotes an overall increase in sense of well-being
- Stimulates all the body systems towards healing
- Is a gentle, yet powerful way to help improve body image
- Improves overall confidence in the healing process
- Empowers the recipient with hope towards complete recovery
- Massage provides a safe and sacred space to relax, let go and re-balance.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/therapies/massage-therapy –
“Clinical trials have shown that massage therapy helps reduce pain, anxiety, fatigue, and shortness of breath in cancer patients. It can ease the mind, improve sleep, reduce depression, and provide comfort to patients. It may also help children and caregivers. In addition, studies suggest that massage can reduce pain and anxiety related to medical procedures, including surgery. Current oncology guidelines recommend using massage for depression and mood disorders. In addition, massage is increasingly used as a complementary therapy to provide relief from symptoms of cancer and other illnesses. However, patients should speak with their doctor and see a qualified massage therapist who understands their condition for treatment.
A majority of NCI-designated cancer centers now offer massage, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. This is usually through referrals from the healthcare team or by accessing their supportive care services. The Integrative Medicine Service at MSK offers many forms of massage therapy to support the recovery and well-being of cancer patients.”
When we are restored and re-balanced, we can forge ahead successfully, overcoming and conquering that which has set us back temporarily. The healing power of compassionate touch reaches more than the physical body. It is a sharing of “life force” energy — a vehicle for rejuvenation. Massage, as well as other “alternative” modalities such as Yoga and Acupuncture, can help guide people back to wholeness and wellness.
Passionate about the body’s ability to heal, Massage Therapist, Yoga Teacher, and Director of Phoenix Wellness Institute, LLC dba Body in Mind Massage Institute, Mary H. Adams, is honored and humbled to help people on their healing journey. Mary took her oncology massage training with Cheryl Chapman, RN, HN-BC, LMT, MCTMB who was one of the earliest pioneers of oncology massage –http://www.cherylchapman.net. Together Cheryl and Mary aspired to create “Touch Teams” who would take teams of oncology massage trained LMT’s and make rounds to New Jersey hospitals and cancer treatment centers to help those with cancer diagnosis realize the healing power of therapeutic touch as part of their recovery. Mary, with five years of experience treating cancer patients, and Cheryl with decades of experience as both an Oncology Nurse and LMT, both believe that massage should be available in all hospitals and cancer treatment centers, not just for cancer patients, but also for staff and patients with other diagnoses (providing they are not otherwise contraindicated.) Mary truly believes that when we all work together for the good of the patient, with all the tools available for healing, then we can truly let the Healing Begin!