- DENISE STANGA
Massage does not treat the cancer itself and massage cannot spread the cancer. Massage can improve quality of life and well-being, and may help reduce the symptoms associated with the disease and the side effects caused by conventional treatments.
Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. These studies have shown that massage may reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression.
Massage therapists seeing clients with cancer can attest to its many benefits. It reduces stress and relaxes patients during and after a session. Massage bolsters the immune system and helps remove toxins from the body, increases circulation and restores energy. It reduces pain and minimizes the effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments and even medication side-effects. It enhances a patient's body awareness and allows them to direct energy toward healing. And, for those with a terminal condition, it can help ease their final days and hours.
Specially trained massage therapists can care for those who are living with or recovering from cancer or other chronic illnesses. In hospice settings, bodyworkers are providing comfort to terminally ill patients and their families. And many physicians, health centers and hospitals across the country have incorporated massage therapists into the healthcare teams.
Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body. Although cancer may spread into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, manipulation from massage or other movement does not cause cancer to spread.
According to the American Cancer Society, light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people in all stages of cancer. However, tumor or treatment sites should not be massaged. If a patient is getting radiation therapy, massage should be avoided in the treatment area as well as in any red, raw, tender, or swollen areas to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs.
Many individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes in mental clarity, alertness and range of motion.
According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a 2009 study of patients undergoing breast cancer treatment reported a decrease in pain and improvements in quality of life, functioning and sleep after having received one 30-minute weekly massage for three consecutive weeks.
Researchers in the same study also determined the treatment helped improve psychological well-being and lessen anxiety. Further, they found massage may boost the number of natural killer cells and lymphocytes, both known to play an important role in immune defense, in women with breast cancer. Some participants in the study also showed an increase in levels of serotonin, a mood-regulating brain chemical.
Regular massage sessions promote over-all health and wellness, minimize symptoms associated with illness and disease and can even help prevent sickness. As with any form of treatment, it is important for people with cancer to consult their physicians before undergoing massage therapy.
Denise Stanga, LMT, is a licensed massage therapist with more than 14 years of experience. She specializes in therapeutic and comfort massage for cancer, post-surgical and end-of-life patients. She is a preferred provider of the Society for Oncology Massage. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 928-421-1091 or visitmoonrisingwellness.net.