Massage for Cancer

Times have changed and the golden rule no longer holds true.  Working with cancer patients can be the most rewarding, soul searching, emotional experience and  you may have as a practitioner.
Here are some guidelines to support you along the way.

  1. Research as much as you can about the type of cancer your patient has.  Find out what is involved in their treatments.  Talk with the patient.  Talk with the patients doctors.  Become informed.
  2. If they are going through chemotherapy or radiation, research the drugs that are being used.  Their bodies are going to be destroyed by the drugs.  They may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, and an extreme fluctuation in emotions.  Fear will be with them through out the process.
  3. The best thing you can do for your client is be there and not interfere in their process or be judgmental.  Stand back and look at what they are going through and decide how can you best support their process.  If you step in and start suggesting alternative therapies they might be overwhelmed.  If they want something different or more information they will ask.  Just offer them the best massage session you can.  Listen to them.  Listen to their pain.  Listen to their fear.  Listening may be the best healer.
  4. Be in constant contact with the client at all times.  What may have previously felt fine to them, may not now.  Ask them what they want – more pressure, less pressure or just a certain body part.  They may not want some areas touched.  Their skin may be more sensitive when going through chemotherapy or radiation.

Web resources:

Cheryl Chapman is a pioneer in massage for Cancer and Mastectomy.

Tracy Walton – Another pioneer for massage and cancer.

FAQ’s on massage and cancer from Tracy Walton

Medicine Hands: Massage for People Living with Cancer: A Basic Training Course for Massage Practitioners and Students, Bodyworkers, and Other Professional Touch Therapists by Gayle MacDonald

Debra Curtis – Breast Massage for Cancer classes

Does Massage Promote Cancer Metatisis? (PDF)  by Debra Curtis

Breast Massage  

Bodymechanics school of massage – Step by step breast massage

The Evolving Practice of Breast Massage By Kate Jordan, NCTMB – Massage Today

Breast Massage and Cancer

The Value of a Good Foot Rub By Shirley Vanderbilt : Massage and Bodywork Magazine Bodywork for Cancer Patients
The Need for a Less-Demanding Approach – Massage and Bodywork Magazine
By Gayle MacDonald: Massage and Bodywork Magazine

Cancer and Massage, The Courage to Touch Massage and Bodywork Magazine

A Study of Foot Massage and Cancer Symptoms
By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms
Developments in Oncology Massage
  By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms

Learning From the Largest Study on Cancer and Massage By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms

Cancer and Human Connection  The Making of an Oncology Massage Therapist  By Shirley Vanderbilt

A Vacation from Cancer By Gayle MacDonald

Massage for Cancer Patients: Indicated or Contraindicated?By William C. Handley Jr., LMT, Oncology Massage Therapist Massage Today

Cancer and Massage: Debunking the Myths By Janine Ray, RMT, MTI  Massage Today


Clin Nurs Res. 2007 May;16(2):85-99; discussion 100-2.

Billhult A, Stener-Victorin E, Bergbom I. Source: Department of Physiotherapy, The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden.

J Nurs Manag. 2006 Mar;14(2):96-105.

Use of reflexology foot massage to reduce anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients in chemotherapy treatment: methodology and outcomes.

Quattrin R, Zanini A, Buchini S, Turello D, Annunziata MA, Vidotti C, Colombatti A, Brusaferro S.

A Study on Massage and Symptom Relief By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS

Massage and Cancer from Evidence Based Medicine Facebook Page

See also:

LiddleKidz – Massage for Cancer Classes with Tina Allen

Oncology Massage Education Associates Gayle MacDonald, M.S., L.M.T., is the author of Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer (Findhorn Press) and Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client

Tracy Walton Cancer Research and Classes on Massage and Cancer