Clinical assessments and adaptations to the massage session for someone experiencing cancer or with a history of cancer treatment are critical to providing a safe massage. Standard oncology massage intake questions include those pertaining to:
- cancer treatment history
- tumor site or metastasis
- compromised blood cell counts
- lymph node involvement
- blood clots or blood clot risk
- medications (short and long term)
- vital organ involvement
- fragile or unstable tissue
- medical devices
- fatigue, neuropathy, or pain
- changes in sensation
- late effects of treatment
A properly trained massage therapist will ask questions about these issues and more, depending on your unique situation. Many of the changes that will be made to your session will be virtually imperceptible to you as a recipient (and others may be quite obvious), but they are essential to safety and proper support of your well being.
A properly trained oncology massage therapist can provide safe and effective massage for any person at any stage of their cancer journey: during and after treatment, in remission, cure or at the end of life.
Part of a complete understanding of oncology massage involves a shift in how we define "massage". Many people think of massage as something that "has to hurt to be effective" or as something they have received, with some discomfort, after an injury or surgery. Others think of some of the more vigorous forms of massage that get the most visibility in popular media. When we are talking about massage in the oncology community it can mean anything from a very "normal" massage equally involving all of your body to very light, simple touch intended to help you reconnect with your body in a kind and healing way. When we broaden the definition of massage in this way we can easily say, "Yes, oncology massage is safe for you."
Oncology massage is 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. Your therapist will adapt his/her massage therapy techniques to your specific needs. In the words of one patient, oncology massage is like "a vacation from cancer."
Patients and their caregivers report many and varied changes after massage. A therapist trained in oncology massage can provide a variety of positive effects from relaxation to scar tissue mobilization to pain reduction, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many benefits beyond even these that are enjoyed by people at all stages of the cancer journey.
Oncology Massage General Benefits
● deep relaxation ● reduced stress ● improved sleep ● eased constipation ● increased alertness and mental clarity ● reduced anxiety ● less nausea ● reduced pain
● reduced anxiety in advance of surgery ● easier recovery from anesthesia ● reduced post-surgical pain ● improved mobility and appearance of surgical scars ● reduced swelling ● improved range of motion ● easier adaptation to implants and expanders
Following Radiation or Chemotherapy
● reduced anxiety in advance of and during treatment ● reduced post-treatment fatigue ● improved appetite ● improved peripheral neuropathy
● decreased anxiety ● decreased depression ● increased feelings of well-being ● being pleasantly distracted ● improved body self-image ● restored hope ● satisfaction in participating actively in a part of the healing process
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