Massage During Cancer Treatment

Is it safe to receive a massage during cancer treatment? Well first you would need to consult your oncologist, but in general yes it is safe to receive a massage. There may be areas that your doctor wants the massage therapist to pay attention to or to avoid completely. There’s no reason to be afraid of treating yourself, or someone you know, to a massage treatment while going through treatment for cancer, especially if he or she receives massages regularly. In fact receiving a massage during this time can boost wellbeing and help with the stress of receiving cancer treatments. You could think of it as a time to increase body awareness and really listen to what is happening in the body. Nurturing touch through massage can help reconnect you with your body, making you feel more like yourself as you adjust to your “new normal”.


You should feel relaxed after your massage session. The therapist should listen to your concerns and needs and adapt techniques accordingly. Receiving a massage doesn’t just feel nice; clinical studies have shown that massage can reduce symptoms such as:

  • stress

  • nausea

  • pain

  • fatigue

  • anxiety and depression

All of which are far too common when you’re dealing with a serious illness. Research shows that massaging muscle and soft tissue doesn’t spread cancer cells – that’s a myth. A relaxing massage is safe for people at all stages of cancer treatment, although the massage therapist will be careful to avoid any treatment or tumor sites while massaging you, to prevent any discomfort.


The myth that massage can spread cancer came about because some people believe that the cells affected by cancer could be moved around the body via the lymphatic system. This isn’t true! Circulation of lymphatic fluid actually happens naturally as we move. The circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Scientific studies have shown that massage may reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression in people having cancer treatments like chemotherapy and surgery.


What are the health benefits of massage for cancer patients? People who’ve had massage therapy sessions during their cancer treatment say that they’ve noticed a wide range of positive effects afterwards including:

  • better sleep

  • improved healing of scar tissue

  • a better quality of life

  • more mental clarity

  • better range of movement

An American study from 2004 looked at the effects of massage therapy on almost 1300 people with cancer over three years. The study found that massage therapy reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression, and the longer the massage sessions, the more relief people reported. Another study looked at how safe and effective massage was in reducing stress hormones in people who had blood cancer. People were given aromatherapy, massage or rest. Massage significantly reduced amounts of stress hormones in the people who took part in the study. So, if you, or someone you know, is dealing with cancer, or has just been through treatment choose massage therapy.


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