Oncology Massage

Oncology massage brings a measure of pleasure and peace into lives filled with pain and worry.

For people who have been diagnosed with cancer, massage therapy can help decrease the nausea, neuropathy, fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and feelings of isolation that can accompany chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. This is a gentle, skilled and structured touch used in combination with lymph drainage therapy and energy work where appropriate.

In response to Amelia's personal journey with breast cancer, she has sought additional oncology training and welcomes the opportunity to provides this care to those in any stage of treatment. She particularly enjoys combining her advanced MLD/Lymph Drainage Therapy training to relieve post-treatment lymphatic issues of the breast, chest and arms. Learn more about Amelia here.

Is massage safe for me?

The short answer is, "Yes". A properly trained oncology massage therapist can provide safe and effective massage for any patient at any stage of the cancer journey. Massage is widely available in 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, the psycho-social and emotional consequences. Your therapist will adapt the extensive repertoire of massage therapy techniques to your specific needs.

In the words of one patient, oncology massage is like "a vacation from cancer".

What do cancer patients say about massage?

"My therapist understands the difficult road of cancer and addresses the physical pain associated with the mental anguish."

"All through my diagnosis and treatment, the only time someone touched me and it didn't hurt was on the massage table. It was like an oasis in the desert."

"As soon as I had a surgery date, I started going in tighter and tighter circles. [Massage] was a big help in being relaxed but ready when the day came."

"[Massage] was a great way to get through the stress of chemotherapy."

"We scheduled a massage a day or two before each chemo. That way my mind and body were looking forward to the massage, not to the chemo."

"I not only felt relief from the taxing effects of chemo and the debilitating muscle/bone ache, I ended up feeling an overwhelming sense of peace."

"It's my oasis. I get bogged down with doctors' appointments ..... all these big things coming at me. I get on the massage table and everything just melts away. For me that is a gift and he is a healer."

"During my sessions I felt completely at peace, a tranquility and serenity of the soul. Euphoria of the mind completely transcended the quiet horror of cancer."

"I was so sick from concurrent chemo and radiation. Massage was the only place where I felt in control and could help myself."

"Massage has created an overall sense of well being. I'm at peace with mastectomy and more at peace with my body image."

"After chemotherapy, I started receiving some gentle massage. I found I was able to care for my children rather than having to stay in bed for days."

"My oncologist told me I was in for a year of hell. It has been. But no matter how rotten I feel, it is never more than six days from my next weekly massage."

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

How will massage help me with my cancer journey?

Massage is unique among the complementary therapies in its balanced effect on both sides of the mind-body connection. Comfort, relaxation, peace and serenity are the only goals of this gentle, caring, one-on-one attention. However, the effects often spill over into other areas of life as well.

Patients and their caregivers report many and varied changes after massage:

General Benefits

  • Deep relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced fluid accumulation
  • Eased constipation
  • Increased alertness and mental clarity
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Less nausea
  • Reduced pain

    Following Surgery

  • Reduced anxiety in advance of surgery
  • Easier recovery from anesthesia
  • Reduced post-surgical pain
  • Improved scars
  • Improved adhesions
  • Reduced swelling
  • Improved range of motion
  • Easier adaptation to implants

    Following Radiation or Chemotherapy

  • Reduced anxiety in advance of and during treatment
  • Reduced post-treatment fatigue
  • Improved appetite
  • Improved peripheral neuropathy

    Emotional Benefits

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Increased feelings of well-being
  • Being pleasantly distracted
  • Improved body self-image
  • Restored hope
  • Satisfaction in taking control over a part of the healing process

    Massage truly is an antidote to the feeling of being a cog in the medical machine. Patients, caregivers, health care workers and others under unremitting daily stress find massage is an oasis of peace in a frantic world.