American Post Ops | Message for Oncology Patients

Message for Oncology Patients

Patients and their caregivers report many and varied changes after massage.  A therapist  trained in oncology massage can provide a variety of positive effects from relaxation to scar tissue mobilization to pain reduction,  but the anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many benefits beyond even these that are enjoyed by people  at all stages of the cancer journey. 
Top Benefits of Oncology Massage for Cancer Patients
 Massage can decrease nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
 Massage can reduce the perception of pain.
 Massage can improve sleep quality.
 Massage may reduce the severity of cancer-related fatigue.
 Reducing pain
 Alleviating stress
 Reducing depression and anxiety
 Improving sleep and lessening fatigue
 Preventing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
 Relieving lymphedema
General Benefits 
 Deep relaxation
 Reduced stress
 Improved sleep
 Eased constipation
 Increased alertness and mental clarity
 Reduced anxiety
 Less nausea
 Reduced pain 
Following Surgery 
 Reduced anxiety in advance of surgery
 Easier recovery from anesthesia
 Reduced post-surgical pain
 Improved mobility and appearance of surgical scars
 Reduced swelling
 Improved range of motion
 Easier adaptation to implants and expanders
Following Radiation or Chemotherapy
 Reduced anxiety in advance of and during treatment
 Reduced post-treatment fatigue
 Improved appetite
 Improved peripheral neuropathy 
Emotional Benefits 
 Decreased anxiety
 Decreased depression
 Increased feelings of well-being
 Being pleasantly distracted
 Improved body self-image
 Restored hope
 Satisfaction in participating actively in a part of the healing process

Things to consider before booking

Any person experiencing a compromised immune system, pre or post-surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy should consider the following before having a massage:

1. Talk to Your Doctor and Massage Therapist: It is important to consult with your doctor and oncologist before undergoing massage therapy. Your doctor may be able to recommend a massage therapist skilled in working with cancer patients. It is also important to let your massage therapist know about your diagnosis, treatment, and any symptoms you may have.

2. Light Massage to Avoid Bruising: People undergoing chemotherapy may have a decrease in red and white blood cells which can make the body more susceptible to bruising. Therefore, light massage is recommended for people currently in treatment.

3. Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can add to the general relaxing properties of a massage and help to create a soothing and healing atmosphere.

4. Post Surgery: If you have recently had surgery, such as for breast cancer, you should only lay on your back, until your doctor decides it is safe for you to lay on your stomach. If you have different (or additional) surgery sites, the appropriate accommodations will be made. Hand and feet massage (reflexology) is also a great way to experience the benefits of massage without undergoing a full-body massage if that is not possible at this time.

5. Radiation: For patients currently undergoing radiation, the massage therapist should avoid touching any sensitive skin in the treatment area. Massage and massage oils and creams may further irritate skin. If you aren’t experiencing any skin irritation, any massage to this area should be extremely light and conducted through a soft towel or cloth.

6. Chemotherapy: Massage can be administered during chemotherapy. Postpone massage after chemotherapy for at least one day. Nausea tends to peak during the few days after chemotherapy. Schedule massage appointments on days where nausea is less likely.

7. Lymph Nodes and Lymphedema: If you have had any lymph nodes removed, these sites should only receive very light touch on the affected arm and the area around the underarm. With lymphedema, the affected arm and underarm areas should not receive traditional light massage. It might make the condition worse. However, manual lymphatic drainage massage is used instead. It is important that you work with a massage therapist familiar with this technique.

Is Massage Safe for People with Cancer

There is no credible evidence that massage spreads cancer. In fact, many cancer patients find massage helpful, improving their overall psychological wellbeing and relieving some symptoms related to treatment. The spread of cancer (metastasis) is a complex biological process involving gene expression, mutation, and biochemical messengers.

Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissue does not spread cancer cells. Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumor or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or call Cancer Council.

Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs, and nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally as we move. Cancer may spread (metastasis) into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops and spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA (genetic mutations) and other processes in the body.

Massage is considered a “complementary therapy” – a type of treatment that is used to support the overall wellbeing of a patient undergoing conventional treatments. A large study of nearly 1300 patients found that massage helped reduce symptoms of cancer treatment such as pain, fatigue, nausea, depression, and anxiety by approximately 50 per cent. Importantly, formal training in this specialized area provides the massage therapist with awareness and expertise to modify and adjust a conventional massage for someone with a history or diagnosis of cancer, while being mindful of any contraindications for massage. Adjustments will be made depending on previous or current treatment, medication, and tumor sites. This ensures provision of safe and effective treatment.

Note: Deep tissue massage may be contraindicated, as it can be physically and psychologically challenging to someone undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer Council recommends that cancer patients discuss any complementary therapies with their doctor before commencing.

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