Oncology Massage

Oncology massage is the modification of massage techniques in order to safely work with effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and includes people in active treatment, those in recovery or survivorship, as well as those at the end of life.

Essential aspects of an oncology massage clinician skill set are an informed understanding of the pathophysiology of cancer; the side effects of cancer treatments, such as medications, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; and the ability to modify massage techniques in order to adapt for these side effects, as well as for the disease.


Assessments

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

Guidelines:

Clinical assessments and adaptations to the massage session for someone affected by cancer are critical to providing a safe massage.

For people in active treatment, recently into recovery, or at end of life, these clinical considerations can and do regularly change. Massage modifications as a result of positioning, pressure, pace or site considerations related to concerns like medical devices, side effects of drug treatments, surgery or radiation, compromised lymph nodes or blood cell counts, and other concerns, may apply, and are unique for each person.


Therapeutic massage during and after cancer treatment:


Oncology massage does not try to “fix” anything, and unlike many massage modalities is not a series of techniques or applied protocols. Rather, it is the ability to recognize and safely work within clinically established guidelines, given a client’s unique circumstance.

Clinical research supports the use of massage in reducing pain and anxiety. Patient reported massage benefits additionally include improved sleep, decreased sense of isolation, enhanced body image, and increased feelings of well-being.


The Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM​)addresses the varying needs of the touch practitioner, consumer, and health professional, and provides resources for advancing the knowledge and understanding of oncology massage.

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