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What is Oncology Massage?

What is Oncology Massage?

Oncology Massage is the adaptation of massage techniques to safely nurture the body of someone affected by cancer or its treatments. An oncology-trained massage therapist has completed comprehensive training in general massage therapy as well as additional specialized training that addresses the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Even after active treatment, receiving massage from a trained oncology therapist is essential since some cancer treatments have long-term effects and require life-long massage modifications. For example, if lymph nodes have been surgically removed, a trained therapist knows of the risk of lymphedema, or swelling, and what precautions to take during the massage. An oncology massage therapist will adapt for: Fatigue Peripheral neuropathy Low blood cell counts Blood clots Bone metastases Radiation Surgery Removal of lymph nodes Lymphedema Medications Medical devices Why get a massage during cancer treatment?

“…it was a very emotional time for me and you really got me in touch with my body. That human touch, it was very spiritual for me. Thank you.” –GN, massage client

Everyone can benefit from massage. Especially someone going through cancer treatment. Massage can create a feeling of control, of comfort in one’s own body, of a chance to just BE. Review of the scientific literature indicates oncology massage helps improve quality of life. Patients and caregivers report a variety of positive experiences after massage from pain reduction to having a pleasant distraction amid medical procedures. Reported massage benefits include:

Reduced pain Decreased anxiety Reduced fatigue Improved sleep Decreased nausea Deep relaxation Eased feeling of isolation Improved body self-image Increased feeling of well-being Improved mobility and appearance of surgical scars Reduced swelling Improved range of motion Easier adaptation to implants and expanders Diminished discomfort of peripheral neuropathy What to expect? The first visit with the massage therapist will include a thorough health intake to create an individualized plan of care. Changes that make Oncology Massage different from other types of massage are typically related to session length, pressure, positioning and areas of particular care like skin reactions from treatment, bone metastases or a mediport. The massage will be catered to the needs of that body in that moment. A session may focus on pain management or relaxation, or include postsurgical scar tissue massage, flexibility training, or lymphatic drainage, all in a comfortable and safe environment. How do I find a trained oncology massage therapist? Society for Oncology Massage requires therapist members to submit proof of training and abide by standards of practice. There is an online therapist locator at, along with helpful resources including frequently asked questions. Ask your healthcare team. Your physical therapists, oncologists, or nurses may know and recommend a massage therapist in your area. I encourage you to ask questions of the

massage therapist. Society for Oncology Massage also has a downloadable worksheet of questions to ask- and what answers to expect- entitled Is Your Therapist Trained? Chelsea French LMT, CLT Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Lymphedema Therapist #MA93440

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