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Jennifer Collins, LMT & Associates
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Massage and Cancer

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Massage and Cancer

If you are suffering from Cancer and are curious on the benefits of massage and questions related to alternative or complimentary therapies please take a few minutes to read the following information.

How can Massage Therapy relieve your discomfort?

Many cancer patients find that when traditional medicine does not help to ease their pain related to their cancer, massage therapy can help to temporarily relieve their pain.  As your body relaxes and releases built up tension, the renewed energy and physical stress reduction can last for hours and days after a massage therapy session.

How Massage helps your recovery

Massage therapy has been shown to increase blood flow circulation and increase healing in surround tissue that is affected by surgery or radiation.  Massage therapy can help to reduce swelling and aid in healing tissue in scarred areas.  The healing properties also aid in decreasing muscle tightness and increase muscle and skeletal flexibility.  As your body relaxes during massage therapy, the reduction of pain and stress allows the body to begin focusing the healing process on other areas of the body.

Research Evidence

“A growing number of health care professionals recognize massage as a useful addition to conventional medical treatment. Some studies of massage for cancer patients suggest that it can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue for many patients. These potential benefits hold great promise for people with cancer, who deal with the stresses of a serious illness and some unpleasant side effects of conventional medical treatment. While some evidence from research studies with cancer patients supports massage for short-term symptom relief, additional research is needed to find out if there are measurable, long-term physical or psychological benefits. While massage appears promising for symptom management and quality of life, available scientific evidence does not support claims that massage slows or reverses the growth or spread of cancer.

In a 2005 review of research, Deng and Cassileth reported that massage therapy has been shown to reduce pain and anxiety in randomized controlled trials. Large, well-controlled studies are still needed to determine the long-term health benefits of massage.

Meanwhile, most patients feel better after massage, which may result in substantial relief. In a 1999 publication, the National Cancer Institute found that about half of their cancer centers offered massage as an adjunctive therapy to cancer treatment.” – American Cancer Society (

Are there any possible problems or complications?

"People with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer that has spread to the bone, spine injuries, osteoporosis or other bone diseases that could be worsened by physical manipulation should avoid physical manipulation or deep pressure. Manipulation of a bone in an area of cancer metastasis could result in a bone fracture. Also, people who have had radiation may find even light touch on the treatment area to be uncomfortable. People with cancer and chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease should consult their physicians before undergoing any type of therapy that involves manipulation of joints and muscles. It is important to have massage given by trained massage therapists, and to be sure they know about your cancer and its treatment. Generally, gentle massage and bodywork can be adapted to meet the needs of cancer patients.

People receiving radiation treatment should not have lotion or oil used on the areas on which radiation was used. Even without radiation treatment, a few people have allergic reactions to oils used during massage.

Another concern for people with cancer is that tissue manipulation in the area of a tumor might increase the risk that cancer cells might travel to other parts of the body. It may be prudent for cancer patients to avoid massage near tumors and lumps that may be cancerous until this question is clearly answered.

It is important for people with cancer to let their medical care provider know they are receiving massage. Massage should be provided by a trained professional with expertise in working safely with people with cancer and with cancer survivors. Family members and other caregivers can be instructed in certain massage techniques as well."

– American Cancer Society (