Today we know that is not true. While cancer may spread into the lymphatic system by way of the lymph nodes, the circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers know that cancer is caused and spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA and other body processes, so there is no need to fear getting a massage if you have cancer.
In fact, some massage therapists specialize in oncology massage. Massage can be very beneficial to cancer patients and is even offered in some hospitals and hospices as a complementary treatment. Some patients like to receive hand or foot massage while receiving chemotherapy or prefer to wait until after the treatment is complete to receive a complete massage.
Studies Show Massage Benefits
Clinical studies have shown that massage and/or aromatherapy can reduce cancer symptoms such as stress, nausea, pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression. One study showed that the benefits of a 60-minute session lasted longer than those from a 20-minute session, and another study showed that massage significantly reduced the stress hormone.
Another benefit is the reduction of scarring and adhesions. Massage can break up adhesions, caused by skin touching muscles as it heals after surgery. This helps patients regain mobility. Patients that undergo radiation treatment will benefit from the essential oil herbal moisturizers used on their skin during the massage.
An additional popular cancer massage technique is manual lymphatic drainage. Therapists use gentle pressure in rhythmic circular movements to stimulate lymph flow and encourage drainage when there’s been an abnormal buildup of fluids. This specialized massage helps move the fluid through the whole lymph system.
Cancer Patients Should Consult Doctors First
If you have been recently diagnosed or are in active treatment, it is important to talk to your doctor before you begin massage. Make sure that you communicate with your massage therapist about your health so that she can make adjustments to accommodate your situation. It’s very important to know, for example, if you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation, because people undergoing this type of treatment often have low blood platelet counts and therefore can bruise easily. They must be worked on in a light manner. Other people may have certain positions that are uncomfortable.
Massage helps people feel better, whether they are sick or healthy. There are very few diseases or conditions that it can’t improve, and cancer is no exception. The complementary therapies have an important role to play in improving the quality of life for people with cancer.