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What is Oncology Massage?

Oncology massage is the modification of massage therapy to safely work with the effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Everyone affected by cancer — people in active treatment, those in recovery or survivorship, those at the end of life, and even caregivers — can benefit from oncology massage. These benefits can include: respite from pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Clinical assessments and adaptations to the massage session for someone affected by cancer are critical to providing a safe massage. 

 

A trained oncology massage therapist makes adaptations for: 

  • Fatigue
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Blood clots
  • Bone pain
  • Bone metastases
  • Radiation or surgery
  • Removal of lymph nodes
  • Lymphedema
  • Medications
  • Medical devices
  • Late effects of treatment

Unlike many massage applications, oncology massage is not a series of techniques or applied protocols. A client-centered approach is the hallmark of oncology massage. Each session is tailored to the client’s unique circumstance.

 

Massage adaptations

For someone in active cancer treatment or recovery, a practitioner will adapt pressure and speed to ensure maximum support. Deep and vigorous massage may add to fatigue, compromise skin or bone integrity, aggravate the side effects of compromised blood cell counts or vital organ impairment, cause nausea, create unnecessary risk for someone with or at risk for blood clots, or trigger or exacerbate lymphedema. Positioning and bolstering the body to accommodate medical devices and post-surgical changes will provide comfort and relief.