Tag Archives: oncology massage

Post-Mastectomy Massage

Cancer. Chemo. Radiation. Surgery. You’ve been through a lot, physically and emotionally.

Massage Therapy may help.

cancer and massage
* from S4OM: “What are people living with cancer saying about oncology massage?”

Benefits of Post-Mastectomy Massage

Potential benefits of massage therapy include:

  • decreased levels of pain.
  • reduced anxiety and depression.
  • decreased cancer-related fatigue.
  • improved sleep and sense of well being.

Massage may also help with scar tissue. Massage to the scar tissue can increase pliability of the area and ease the tight, uncomfortable pulling sensation around the scar. It’s best to work with a massage therapist or physical therapist trained in working with scar tissue. They will also be able to show you how to massage your scar.

Find a Massage Therapist

In Champaign-Urbana: I am a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage with training in post-mastectomy scar tissue massage. You can schedule a massage here. I recommend starting with a 30 minute session.

Otherwise, check S4OM’s locator tool to connect with one of my wonderful colleagues.

Massage at Restoring Balance

I will create a custom massage for you. If you are uncomfortable on the massage table, I will work with you to find a comfortable position. It’s your choice whether or not to have your scar, or any part of your body, massaged. If you are too cold, I will add  a blanket. Put simply, it’s your massage and it will be will be customized to you.

For more information:

Cancer and Massage: Information for Healthcare Providers

Massage Therapy is increasingly being used as complementary care during and after cancer treatment. The following information is intended to help you determine if massage therapy may help your patients.

Does massage have anything to offer my patients?

Yes, research supports (1) the use of massage therapy as a complement to pain medications and in the reduction of anxiety. Patients report many other benefits including decreased nausea and fatigue, and improved sleep and overall sense of well being.

A trained oncology massage therapist will also be able to show your patient some massage techniques to use at home.

Is massage safe for my patients?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can adapt massage to be safe and effective no matter where your patient is in their cancer treatment or recovery.

How will massage be adapted to my patients needs?

Oncology massage therapists have their clients complete a thorough health history and welcome the input of the patient’s healthcare team. This information is used to specially adapt the massage session to the needs of each client. Common adaptations oncology massage therapists make to a client’s cancer and treatment include shorter session length, care with pressure of massage strokes, and alternate positioning. For example, for areas at risk for lymphedema, “lotioning” pressure (like the pressure you use to apply lotion to your skin) is used on the extremity and on the associated quadrant. If needed, the limb is elevated during massage.

How do I help my patient find an oncology massage therapist?

While there are no government-regulated standards of what a qualified oncology massage therapist is, the Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM) has set forth minimum competency standards for massage therapists to work safely and effectively with people with cancer and cancer histories.  Therapists must have at least 500 hours of massage training, they must hold the appropriate credential to practice in their jurisdiction (in Illinois, this would be a massage therapy license), and they must have completed a foundational course in oncology massage.

If you are in or near Champaign, I am a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact me here . Otherwise, S4OM has a locator tool to help you find a provider in your area.

-Karyn Claflin, LMT

(1) MacDonald, Gayle. (2014). Touch- Rx for Body, Mind, and Heart: A Review of the Research in Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer: p 26-54. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press

Cancer, Caregiving, and Massage Therapy

While massage therapy can play a supportive role in cancer care, it can also support caregivers. Here’s a few things to know about massage for people in cancer treatment and how it can support you as well.

Is massage safe for people with cancer?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can provide a safe and effective massage no matter where a person is in cancer treatment or recovery.

Does massage have anything to offer people with cancer?

Yes, possible benefits of oncology massage include decreased levels of pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. Massage may also help improve sleep and overall sense of well being.

What is oncology massage?

A massage therapy session is not one-size-fits-all. Oncology massage is a massage adapted to the specific ways cancer or cancer treatments have affected your loved one provided by a massage therapist with specific training in massage and cancer.

Great! Where can I get my loved one a spa gift certificate?

Awesome! You want to make sure that the location has a massage therapist with training in oncology massage. Be wary if the spa manager or massage therapist says they have not had training, but they will “just work lightly.”  Remember, massage is not one-size-fits-all; you want your loved one to receive a safe, effective massage. Here are some questions to ask to find out if the massage therapist at the spa is trained in oncology massage.

Or, you can find an oncology massage therapist using this locator tool.  And, if you are in or near Champaign, Karyn is a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact her here or schedule a massage here.

A trained oncology massage therapist will also be able to show you some massage techniques to use at home. You can provide more frequent massage. Even five minutes of massage can provide comfort to your loved one.

Does massage have anything to offer me?

Yes! You are amazing for helping your loved one through this difficult time. Caregiving can be a tough job. No doubt you are experiencing some stress, maybe even some pain. Massage therapy can help with this. Taking care of yourself is super important. If you get run down, who will care for your loved ones? Remember, self-care is not a luxury. So take some time for yourself. Get a massage. Meditate. Read your favorite book.

Take care of yourself.

What Every Person With Cancer Should Know About Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can play a supportive role in your cancer care. Here are some things you should know before you get a massage.

Is massage safe for me?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can provide a safe and effective massage no matter where you are in your cancer treatment or recovery.

Does massage have anything to offer me?

Yes, possible benefits of oncology massage include decreased levels of pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. Massage may also help improve sleep and overall sense of well being.

What is oncology massage?

In short, it’s a massage customized to you. Oncology massage is a massage adapted to the specific ways cancer or cancer treatments have affected you and your body provided by a massage therapist with specific training in massage and cancer. Adjustments may include session length, pressure of massage strokes, and alternate positioning (i.e. maybe you are uncomfortable lying on your stomach or back).

What is an “oncology massage therapist” and why should I see one?

Why all this talk of an oncology massage therapist?

Another oncology massage therapist sums it up best here:

Maybe you’re in pain.  Maybe your hair has fallen out or you have neuropathy or shortness of breath or you’re inescapably nauseated.  You decide you need support in the form of massage therapy.

You find yourself standing in front of two doors.  One door says, “Massage, All Are Welcome…We’ll Figure it Out.”  On the other door, the sign reads, “Oncology Massage: Come As You Are. I am Skilled, Present and At Your Service. Which door would you choose?”.

Lauren Cates

There is no one-size-fits-all massage. In Illinois, as in many other states, the state regulates massage licensing. They have a baseline standard for entry-level massage therapists to protect the public. States require a certain amount of education covering various topics, as well as passing a licensing exam and a background check. In addition to many other things, they want massage therapists to know when it is safe for someone to receive a massage and when it is not. In school, we were taught to refer someone to their doctor or a more qualified massage therapist if we felt we lacked the knowledge to provide safe massage.

Cancer and cancer treatments have many effects on the body for which massage adjustments must be made.  There is no one-size-fits-all massage. Initial massage education in the United States does not typically prepare massage therapists for this. In massage school, over the course of a semester we discussed various illnesses and injuries and whether or not massage was safe or needed to be adapted. We even spent a whole week on massage and cancer. For many of the scenarios, I felt prepared to provide safe massage right out of school. But with cancer I felt I needed more information. I knew that there were lots of things to look out for, like lymphedema risk and bone metastasis, but didn’t really know how to adapt for them, and I certainly didn’t want to make someone feel worse after their massage.  I read everything I could find on the subject, including a textbook written by a leader in the field of oncology massage. Still, I did not feel “qualified” until completing a 4 day intensive hands-on training.

While there are no government-regulated standards of what a qualified oncology massage therapist is, the Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM) has set forth minimum competency standards for massage therapists to work safely and effectively with people with cancer and cancer histories*:  at least 500 hours of massage training, holds the appropriate credential to practice in their jurisdiction (in Illinois, this would be a massage therapy license), and has completed a foundational course in oncology massage.

* If you are in cancer recovery, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage will still be a great choice for you. Cancer and its treatments have many effects, some short-term, some lifelong.

How do I find an oncology massage therapist?

If you are in or near Champaign, I am a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact me here or schedule a massage here. Otherwise, check S4OM’s locator tool to connect with one of my wonderful colleagues.

-Karyn Claflin, LMT

UPDATED 1/22/2015: Added quote from Lauren Cates.

Cancer Metastasis: Can Massage Therapy Spread Cancer?

For a long time, there was a fear that massage could promote cancer metastasis. The thinking went that massage increases circulation and that increased circulation would spread cancer faster. Until rather recently, people with cancer were not experiencing the benefits of massage. It was only in the last 20 years or so that this fear was questioned. There has not been research into this question, but with the knowledge we do have we can reason it through.

First, does massage increase circulation? We’re not really sure, there is little research. So, for this discussion let’s assume massage does increase circulation. Does increased circulation increase cancer spread? Exercise and movement also increase circulation. Cancer patients are often encouraged to exercise. If there is no concern that exercise will spread cancer, massage will not either.

Second, cancer metastasis is a complex biological process. Let’s take a look at a few of the steps (1, 2) of cancer metastasis to see how they could be affected by massage.

  • Cancer cells shed from the tumor. It is possible that sufficient pressure applied directly to a tumor could increase cell shedding. Surgeons are concerned about disturbing tumors so they take great care when removing them.  Because of this and also because it can be painful, Massage Therapists avoid pressure on accessible active and suspected tumor sites. Most tumors are too deep to be accessible by direct pressure.

“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

  • Cancer cells are then carried through the body by blood and lymph. Blood and lymph move fairly quickly through the body already. We aren’t really sure that massage increases this, but if it does it would only carry the cells a bit more quickly. This isn’t spreading the cancer, it has not spread until the cells actually survive and implant in another area of the body. The vast majority of cells that shed from tumors do not survive this step to implant in another area.

“Tumor cells that enter the blood stream circulate until one of three things happens: 1) they are killed, 2) they are trapped in the capillary bed of another organ, or 3) they invade the blood vessel wall into the tissue of a distant organ. Only the latter group can ever form metastatic colonies. Cells that remain in the blood stream or are trapped inside the tiny vessels of a capillary bed die fairly quickly, often within hours (2).”

  • Cells implant in another area of the body. This is a biological process where the cancer cells and the organ or tissue interact. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see how this would possibly be affected by massage.

“One characteristic that might make an organ congenial to tumor growth is the presence of specific growth factors found at those sites. Other evidence points toward an idea of adhesive-specificity, where particular cancers bind to certain types of tissue. In part, this happens because they home in to certain sites that contain the molecular address system that matches to the surface of certain tissues or organ (2).”

I hope this discussion has calmed any fears you may have had that massage could spread cancer. Skilled Massage Therapy has much to offer people affected by cancer. As always, if you have any questions feel free to call me: (217) 552-1670.

Sources and Further Reading:

(1) Curties, Debra. Could Massage Therapy Promote Cancer Metastasis?

(2) MacDonald, Gayle. The Spread of Cancer.

Massage Therapy and Cancer

Cancer can be a scary and stressful thing, whether it’s you or someone you love. There are tons of resources out there to help you through the journey. Massage Therapy can be one tool to help. It can be a bit tricky to study and massage research is still in it’s early stages but research suggests several potential benefits of massage for people with cancer.

The evidence is fairly strong (1) that Massage Therapy:

  • effectively complements pain medications to treat pain in cancer patients.
  • can reduce anxiety.

There is anecdotal evidence(1) (meaning based on personal stories and case studies, not systematic research) that is not supported by research (due to conflicting results or lack of research/ too little research) claiming that Massage Therapy:

  • can help reduce nausea.
  • decreases cancer-related fatigue.
  • can improve sleep.
  • can decrease depression.
  • reduces the length of hospital stays.

All of these things can lead to better quality of life. Want to see if Massage Therapy can help you? Have any questions? Contact me.  As a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) with advanced training in Oncology Massage I can customize your massage so it is safe and effective no matter where you are in your cancer treatment or recovery.

 

(1) MacDonald, Gayle. (2014). Touch- Rx for Body, Mind, and Heart: A Review of the Research in Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer: p 26-54. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press.