What is Oncology Massage?

Oncology massage is the educated use of touch to address the effects of cancer and cancer treatment.  It is useful for the current patient as well as the long-time survivor.  Appropriate adjustments are made to facilitate a decrease in nausea, fatigue, pain, anxiety, and depression and to promote an increase in relaxation and a sense of wholeness and well-being.

Massage Therapy and Cancer

The benefits of massage therapy are well recognized by the medical community. We now know there are special benefits for patients undergoing cancer therapies.  Massage and Manual Lymph Drainage Therapies can be safely used during most treatment phases of cancer.  Modifications of massage techniques allow treatment from diagnosis to post-surgery and recovery, including during chemo and radiation therapy.

General Benefits from Massage (for everyone):

  • calms sympathetic nervous system
  • increases blood and lymph circulation
  • improves muscle tone
  • reduces chronic pain
  • helps reduce the effects of stress
  • promotes better sleep

Specific benefits for Cancer Patients:

  • enhanced physiology – i.e. more efficient circulation and skin condition
  • symptom relief (possible reduction in medications)
  • relief of symptoms related to surgery, chemo and radiation therapies
    (with some contraindications)
  • pain reduction
  • improved range of motion
  • reduction of scar tissue and resultant discomforts
  • relaxation and stress reduction

Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy has its own special indications and benefits for cancer patients.

  • reducing post-surgery swelling and pain 
  • promoting optimal lymph system function
  • encouraging anastomoses for lymph drainage
  • compression therapies and bandaging to encourage lymph drainage
  • advice in self-care and movement exercises for patients

Special Indications for Breast Cancer:

Lymphedema is a common complication of axillary node dissection and/or radiation therapy.  Current statistics indicate the average incidence of lymphedema following breast surgery is around 38%, even higher if surgery is followed up by radiation.  Lymphedema  response can occur long after surgery, with or without recurrent cancer.  Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy is a gentle and effective, yet non-invasive way to treat this problem while still at a sub-clinical stage.

A trained massage therapist can also provide a safe place to help the patient with body awareness and acceptance.  This can be especially important in disfiguring cancers.  Studies show that even light, general massage during cancer treatment can promote healing by improving self-image, body awareness, relaxation, a sense of well-being and positive outlook and attitude toward treatment.

Special massage techniques and MLD therapies can aid in treatment of cancer at various sites, stages, types and grades.  Modifications and contraindications are necessary, requiring a specially trained therapist familiar with the pathologies and special needs arising from cancer and it’s treatments.  Ongoing communication with the MD is also essential.

What is Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy?

Manual Lymph Drainage is a set of specialized hands-on techniques which promotes the optimal function of the lymphatic system by stimulating the flow of lymph.

Essentially, MLD helps the body to recover faster by stimulating the immune and drainage mechanisms. Through the pumping and stretching effect on the lymph vessels, MLD makes lymph flow faster and also stimulates the formation of new connections between lymph vessels.

As a Nationally Board Certified Massage Therapist with additional credentials in Medical Massage, Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage, and Klose Combined Decongestive therapies, I am qualified to help patients undergoing cancer treatments. I have a special interest in helping breast cancer patients.  Massage and MLD/CDT can be an excellent adjunct to current treatment protocol and will provide many benefits, which will facilitate comfort and recovery.