The benefits of oncology massage

Catherine Connors

Catherine Connors, holistic therapist and stress management consultant, wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago about how beautiful the body is and how we do not always cherish the most wonderful gift we have, which is our own physical being. It really struck a cord with me and I know I am not alone in dealing with altered body image perceptions after surgical interventions for cancer. I asked Catherine to expand a little on that post for JBBC and so today I am delighted to share with you Catherine’s guest blog post on oncology massage.    

  Cancer patients all too often experience feelings of isolation, fear, anxiety and worry which can be alleviated and/or assisted through the medium of touch. All humans are essentially physical creatures; we need to be touched and to feel tenderness & kindness.  Cancer patients are also under high amounts of stress, worry and strain, and certainly massage can help ease this type of stress.    

Reduced stress levels have been shown to be beneficial for the immune system, so a properly performed Oncology massage can actually be extremely beneficial for a patient, strengthening his or her body for the fight against the cancer.  So what is Oncology Massage? And why is it different from ordinary massage?    

Oncology Massage is a specially designed combination of various therapies such as Swedish massage, Reflexology, Indian head massage etc and is specifically designed for people living with cancer. The aim is to improve the function of the immune system and blood circulation, which helps increase a person’s energy level, and appetite. Those who can receive an Oncology Massage are –    

  • Chemotherapy patients
  • Patients receiving radiation treatments
  • Pre- and post-surgical cancer patients
  • Cancer patients in remission/still recovering from treatments
  • Anyone who has had one or more lymph nodes removed

The important thing is to find the correct therapist for you, it’s very important that you feel comfortable with your therapist, that you can freely chat and discuss your feelings (both physically and emotionally) and feel at ease.  The primary concern with massaging cancer patients is that a poorly performed massage by a therapist without the necessary experience could actually hurt the patient.   Because of surgery and/or various therapies some patients experience increased sensitivity and fragile skin.  So how do you find a therapist that’s right for you?    

First and foremost, as with any type of illness, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor first before making an appointment for massage. Many doctors today work directly with massage therapists or health professionals who offer different types of therapies including massage, so they may have a recommendation, and doctors may want to be in contact with the therapist about the patient’s specific case before approving massage and/or the therapist.  Be sure to ask your therapist questions, such as their qualifications, the type of illnesses they deal with and how many years they are practicing.  I would personally recommend that if you are a cancer patient seeking a therapist you should look for a therapist with at least 7 years experience and certainly with some training or knowledge of massaging cancer patients.  If you are not convinced then don’t take the chance and continue looking.    

This type of massage will be tailored to the individual client, so no two clients will receive the same massage.  A good therapist will take notes after every session and you shouldn’t be alarmed by this.  Several things may be different from a massage you might receive in a health spa, for example –    

  • A detailed account will be completed, including the kind of cancer you have (or had), all treatment history, any current treatment you’re on, all symptoms and side-effects you are experiencing, and any surgery or lymph node involvement you might have.
  • Pressure may be lighter than a regular massage.
  • A lot of the massage time may be spent on the feet (Reflexology), the spine (Hot stone therapy and/or acupressure points) and the head (Indian head massage) with the rest of the body receiving a lighter massage.
  • Specific symptoms at the time of massage will be addressed via pressure point (for example nausea, depression or any pain).
  • Depending on your own needs the position you lie in might be modified to accommodate any surgery, radiation sites or sensitive skin.

 What’s the most important is that you are met with respect; so many people out there miss out on the wonderful feeling of a massage and the health benefits that follow because any number of reasons, cancer shouldn’t be one of them.    

As a massage therapist and someone who has massaged many different body types and those with illnesses I can assure you that everybody’s body is beautiful. In a nutshell your body is the greatest gift you have, treasure it, love it, care for it….. never be shy to treat your body to a massage, your therapist (once you find him/her) is a professional and as such is well aware that we all come in different packages.    

There are so many benefits to receiving regular massage, including –    

  • A stronger immune system
  • Better circulation
  • Pain reduction or relief
  • Reduced nausea and vomiting
  • Increased energy and appetite
  • Better outlook on life / less depression
  • Having a more restful sleep

 So why not book that massage today….    

 This article is provided for education and debate only.  The information contained within this article is not intended to be used by non-medically qualified readers as a substitute for, or basis of, medical treatment, since some material may be speculative and/or not in agreement with current medical practice.  Check with your GP before trying any remedies and in particular always seek medical advice.    

Catherine Anne Connors first became interested in Holistic therapies and Natural treatments 14 years ago as a method to aid a member of her family who became seriously ill.   Since that time her areas of expertise and knowledge of Natural solutions have grown enormously and have been used time and time again to assist others.  Catherine is well known for her dedication to her clients, her passion for her work and the countless hours she provides on a voluntary basis.    

Amongst other things Catherine also produces her own, very popular, in-house magazine ‘De-Stress’.  Every issue is full of articles by various experts within their field and is dedicated to the subject of Stress.  De-Stress is available to view and read online for free –    

Catherine is a Stress Management Consultant, Time-Management Consultant, Holistic Therapist & Trainer and Natural Therapist, she currently lives in Paris but is planning to return to Ireland by August 2010.  To find out more about Catherine and her work please visit her website and blogs –