When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago there were many myths about beijing massage being unsafe for cancer patients. Since then this myth completely turned around and more hospitals and mainstream clinics became aware of the benefits of massage therapy and added it their programs. Massage is widely used as part of people’s health maintenance but there are important facts about massage and cancer that people and Massage Therapists should know. As a seasoned massage therapist, instructor and a survivor, I would like to discuss important issues about Massage during treatment and recovery.
Myth: Massage is NOT safe for someone newly diagnosed with cancer
Fact: Initially, it is best to air on the cautious side and receives gentle massage techniques to help calm the nervous system, like Swedish massage, Shiatsu, Reiki, healing touch. Deep tissue work should be avoided and avoid working directly on the tumor area.
Myth: Since massage stimulates the blood flow it can increase the risk of metastasis (spreading to other parts of the body)
Fact:shanghai massage does stimulate the blood flow but so is walking, exercising, taking a shower or a baths…all of which are highly recommended during cancer treatment. Recent studies show that massage induces the production of the hormone Oxytocin which counter acts cortisol also known as the “stress hormone”. Cortisol is very useful when we need the fight or flight mechanism, but under constant stress excess production of cortisol can be harmful by decreasing the immune system response. A cancer diagnosis is very stressful and a person in susceptible to anxiety and depression. Since massage aids with the relaxation response and the release of Oxytocin it can be a major aid in strengthening the immune system and release of toxins and promote healing.
Myth: Women who had lymph nodes removed should never receive massage due to the risk or lymphadema
Fact: Extra caution is necessary in this case due to the risk of lymphadema. Provide only light massage on the compromised quadrant of the torso (arm, chest and back) but a regular massage can be administered to the rest of the body. If lymphadema is present refer your client to an MLD practitioner.
Can I work with a client during chemotherapy and radiation?
Yes, however a waiting period of 4-7 days after treatment is recommended depending on the treatment and the individual. Your client may not feel like receiving any work during the first few days and their white blood cell count may be low making them extremely vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. Another reason to wait is for your safety as a massage therapist where you might absorb some of the medication through skin to skin contact. Pay attention and make your own precaution if you are affected. See article at: It is OK to work on a client during radiation, if they feel up to it but massage and oils should not be administered to the radiated area. S4om.org
How about massage after surgery?
After surgery it is recommended to wait 7 days and up to 6 weeks before receiving bodywork, depending on the type of surgery and reconstruction. However, energy work and gentle massage to non affected areas can be administered as soon as the client feels up to it and the doctor approves it.
What about massaging around tumors?
In cases where the tumor is palpable direct pressure to the area should be avoided. Once the tumor is removed and the wound is healed it is OK to china massage the area and perform scar tissue work. Be very cautious when working on a side where lymph nodes are compromised due to the risk of lymphadema. Avoid heat and deep pressure in that case. If tumor is deep and cannot be removed massage should be administered with caution.
Body image issues
Some women are self conscious about their body especially after mastectomy surgery. It is very important to respect your client’s privacy. Do not assume that it is OK to work on her breasts or mastectomy area. Always ask first, and get her signed consent. Always offer a drape which she can accept without feeling “un-cool” or decline.
Preclusions and contraindications:
Receiving massage is a personal decision that each client should discuss with their doctor and practitioner and judge by his or her comfort level.
Do not give a massage if you or your client have fever.
Avoid using oils on radiated areas before radiation treatment.
Areas of surgery are usually numb. Avoid application of heat to those areas! Client may not be able to tell if the temperature is too hot and can suffer burns.
During chemo, patient can be susceptible to bruising. If excessive bruising occurs after a massage, avoid deep pressure.
Deep massage is contraindicated in areas where the lymph nodes have been compromised even if the client does not have lymphadema. Caonline
Refer your client to a specialist if they develop lymphadema.
Client may feel worse physically and emotionally during the first 24 hrs after a massage due to the release of toxins.