Overview Oncology massage is the modification of massage techniques in order to safely work with effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and includes people in active treatment, those in recovery or survivorship, as well as those at the end of life. Essential aspects of an oncology massage therapists skill set are an informed understanding of the pathophysiology of cancer; the side effects of cancer treatments, such as medication, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; and the ability to modify massage techniques in order to adapt for these side effects, as well as for the disease.
Assessments Standard oncology massage intake questions include those pertaining to: -cancer treatment history -tumor site or metastasis -compromised blood cell counts -lymph node involvement -blood clots or blood clot risk -medication sort & long term -vital organ involvement -fragile or unstable tissue -medical devices -clients experience of fatigue, neuropathy or pain -changes in sensation -late effects of treatment
Guidelines Clinical assessments and adaptations to the massage session for someone affected by cancer are critical to providing a safe massage.
For people in active treatment, recently into recovery or at end of life, these clinical considerations can and do regularly change. Massage modifications as a result of positioning, pressure, pace or site considerations related to concerns like medical devices, side effects of drug treatments, retry or radiation, compromised lymph nodes or blood cell counts, and other concerns, may apply and are unique for each person. Certain massage modifications will remain crucial even decades after treatment is complete. When providing massage for someone who has a history of cancer treatment, primary massage considerations include but are not limited to bone integrity, vital organ involvement, and compromised lymph nodes.
Contraindications and adaptations With appropriate moderations there are few absolute contraindications. Deep tissue applications for a person in active treatment and massage over the site of a tumor are however universally contraindicated. For someone in active cancer treatment or recovery a practitioner should avoid pressure and speeds that may add to fatigue, compromise skin or bone integrity, aggravate the side effects of compromised blood cell counts or vital organ impairment, cause nausea, create unnecessary risk for someone with or at risk for blood clots, or trigger or exacerbate lymphedema. The appropriate adjustment of pressure and speed can vary between clients. Practitioners should employ a practice of beginning conservatively and slowly "inching forward" with regard to increases in pressure and speed, if necessary.
Summary Massage is a therapeutic modality that is increasingly being used as complementary care in the clinical care setting. In consideration of the massage adaptations required during and after cancer treatments, oncology massage education for touch practitioners, massage therapists and estheticians is essential for clinical safety and therapeutic benefit.