I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and being a massage therapist myself, I already knew of the wonderful benefits massage therapy offers for helping with every day aches and pains and stress relief. I was yet to learn how incredibly wonderful it would be to help get me through breast cancer!
Marnie Clark, Breast Cancer Survivor
My own massage therapist was also my best friend, so she already knew everything I was going through. I was so fortunate to have her nearby to help me through this very trying time. Her compassion and skilled hands kept my stress levels down, effectively handled the mild nausea I encountered, and dealt with the attendant aches and pains during chemotherapy.
Is Massage Safe If You Have Cancer?
There are some old wives tales out there that say you should never have massage when you have cancer because it used to be believed that massage could promote metastasis since tumor cells move through lymphatic channels and blood vessels. Not true! It is true that massage of a solid tumor site should be avoided, but there is more to a person than their tumor! It is now well accepted that massage therapy is quite safe for cancer patients.
We now know that movement and exercise increase circulation much more than a brief massage will do, and that people routinely exercise through cancer. This is actually great for the cancer patient – cancer cells hate oxygenated environments so the more exercise you do, the better your chances for beating cancer. But I digress.
Massage is practiced widely at a growing number of hospitals around the country – at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and many others. Metastasis should not concern you.
I would definitely recommend finding a certified or licensed massage therapist who has learned to work with cancer patients because they will be knowledgeable about which massage creams and oils are safe, and will have the necessary experience to make the massage comfortable and enjoyable.
The 7 Great Benefits of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients
1. Massage Assists Anxiety and Depression. Did you know that cancer patients have nearly twice the risk of developing psychiatric distress compared to the general population? Not surprising, is it? Studies indicate that massage therapy greatly assists anxiety and depression - most patients reported being less anxious when receiving regular massage, especially the anxiety before any major tests, uncomfortable procedures and interventions, such as surgery. Massage has such calming effects on the nervous system.
2. Massage Improves Quality of Sleep. My clients tell me that massage improves their energy level and helps them sleep better, and cancer patients in treatment are no exception. Good quality sleep can be particularly difficult to attain during cancer treatments (was it just me or did others find that chemotherapy revved up their brain to a huge degree?). Cancer fatigue is a common complaint among cancer patients and at least one study shows that massage therapy assists sleep.
3. Massage Eases Pain. Let’s face it – if you’re going through chemotherapy, you likely have lots more pain in your body. I remember feeling like an ancient old lady when chemotherapy was busy drying up my estrogen-making ability. Estrogen has protective benefits for our joints and I could hardly kneel or get up from the floor once chemotherapy commenced. Prior to this I was an active participant in yoga, I did lots of hiking, I was very fit prior to my breast cancer diagnosis. Massage therapy helps to ease the pain of cancer treatments, and in some cases, relieves it entirely.
4. Massage Helps Ease Nausea. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. I suspect that its calming effects on the nervous system are why it helps, but for myself personally I found that the gentle, relaxing manipulation of muscles and connective tissue eased not only my body but also any nausea I had.
5. Massage Helps Reduce Scarring and Adhesions. When your surgical scars have healed, massage therapy is great to reduce any adhesions that may occur. Adhesions are the result of abnormal wound healing between adjacent tissues following a surgical procedure. Usually due to surgical trauma, the body can initiate a complex inflammatory response in which tissues that normally remain separated in the body become physically attached to each other. Surgical adhesions can cause a great deal of dysfunction and pain and massage therapy can reduce the inflammation, increase circulation, and effectively deal with adhesions.
6. Massage Boosts Immunity. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center reported that a single massage produced measurable changes in the immune system and endocrine system of healthy adults. Click here to read the article.
7. Massage Just Plain Feels Good! There are no words to describe (but I’ll take a stab at it) how wonderful it is to stretch out on a warmed table, be covered with clean linens, soft music playing in the background, and having your aches and pains massaged away. For me, it is as essential as eating well, exercising, and meditation. Massage therapy keeps me thriving.
For more information, contact me via this site at my WhatNext profile MarnieC. I wish you love and joy as you move through cancer toward wellness.
Marnie Clark is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband. Marnie is a Certified Massage Therapist and blogger at MarnieClark.com, the site she put together to help empower others going through the breast cancer journey. She has lived in both Denver, Colorado and Perth, Australia. You can see her videos about her breast cancer journey on this site Here