Oncology Massage

Oncology Massage: Gentle Touch Therapy for Cancer Care

What is Massage 19th Aug, 2023

Oncology massage is a modified modification of traditional massage therapy that is specially developed to function safely with those afflicted by cancer and its treatment. Anyone affected by cancer, including those in active treatment, recovery or survivorship, terminal stages, and carers, can benefit from oncology massage.

Woman having Oncology Massage

It relieves various discomforts, such as pain, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.
Conducting a clinical assessment and customizing the massage session accordingly is critical to ensuring the safety of a cancer patient.

Oncology massage is not a collection of procedures or techniques, but rather a client-centered approach tailored to each individual’s needs.

What is Oncology Massage?

Delving into the world of therapeutic touch, oncology massage sets itself apart as a specialized form of massage therapy. It is designed to safely interact with the after-effects of cancer and its treatments. Regardless of the cancer stage — whether active treatment, recovery, survivorship or even caregivers — everyone can tap into the benefits of oncology massage.

Woman having Oncology Massage

The comprehensive assessment and adjustments during the massage session are vital in ensuring safe treatment for anyone affected by cancer. The unique aspect of oncology massage is that it is not just a set of techniques or protocols. Rather, it takes a client-centered approach, tailoring each session to the unique circumstances of the client.

Oncology Massage Techniques Adaptation

When dealing with an individual undergoing active cancer treatment or recovery, the practitioner adapts the pressure and speed to offer optimal support.

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Key massage modifications are made to accommodate for:

  • Neuropathy of the periphery
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Blood clots
  • Bone pain
  • Metastases in the bones
  • Radiation or surgery
  • Lymph node removal
  • Lymphedema
  • Medications
  • Medical devices
  • Late effects of treatment

Deep and forceful massages may increase tiredness, damage skin or bone integrity, intensify the adverse effects of low blood cell counts, crucial organ dysfunction, cause lymphedema, or provide an unnecessary risk to people who have or are at risk for blood clots.

As a result, positioning and strengthening the body to respond to medical equipment and post-surgical alterations is an important element of delivering comfort and relief.


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Therapeutic Benefits of Oncology Massage

Oncology massage treatment does more than just make patients feel better physically, and that is one of its primary advantages.

Breast examination, lady inspecting her breasts for cancer

This specific type of therapy can also contribute to increased psychological and emotional well-being. Here are some of the many advantages of cancer massage therapy:

1. Physical Comfort: Oncology massage techniques are designed to reduce pain and discomfort, improve sleep, minimize symptoms of fatigue, and enhance the body’s overall function and feel.

2. Emotional Wellbeing: A diagnosis of cancer can come with heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Oncology massage can help alleviate these feelings, providing a sense of calm and relaxation during a difficult time.

3. Enhanced Recovery: While oncology massage is not a treatment for cancer itself, it can play a significant role in supporting the body’s healing process. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, massage can improve the body’s immune response, aiding recovery.

4. Quality of Life: The combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits that oncology massage can provide leads to an enhanced quality of life for patients undergoing cancer treatment. It can make the difficult journey of cancer treatment more manageable and, in some cases, more hopeful.

An oncology massage’s soft, caring touch gives much-needed relief from the frequently painful and unpleasant medical procedures involved with cancer therapy. Oncology massage may have a tremendous influence on patient well-being by addressing both the physical and emotional tolls of cancer and its therapy.

The Benefits of Oncology Massage

Many people find it difficult to face cancer and go through the treatment process. The need for self-care sometimes takes a back seat in the midst of a frenzy of medical visits and therapies. This is where oncology massage may help, with a variety of advantages that treat not just physical suffering but also emotional and psychological stress. Let’s take a closer look at the wonderful world of oncology massage and its myriad benefits.

1. The Oasis of Relaxation

Relaxation, the primary gift of any massage, is particularly valuable when dealing with a life-altering experience such as cancer. Amidst the flurry of doctor appointments and intense treatments, a massage can provide a much-needed respite, a sanctuary where you can shift your focus back to your own well-being.

Whether you choose to engage in light conversation with your therapist or surrender to the silence, the key is to savor the serene moments as your body is gently massaged. Often, these tranquil periods can lead to emotional release, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s all part of the healing process.

2. Respite from Pain

Dealing with cancer can result in daily soreness and pain from accumulated tension and muscle knots. The addition of oncology massage therapy can help relieve these discomforts. Therapists are skilled at identifying and working on areas of tension, which can leave you feeling rejuvenated after each session.

3. Alleviating Neuropathic Pain

One of the common side effects of chemotherapy drugs like Taxol (paclitaxel) is neuropathic pain. This type of nerve pain can significantly reduce your quality of life. However, oncology massage therapy can play a crucial role in preventing or mitigating this condition. Regular massage sessions before taking Taxol may lessen the likelihood of developing nerve pain.

4. Curtailing Fatigue

While an oncology massage may not directly energize you, it can contribute to quicker recuperation and increased vitality. The therapy’s ability to induce relaxation, relieve pain, and potentially improve your quality of life can indirectly combat fatigue.

Plus, an added bonus is improved sleep quality. Combined with pain alleviation and relaxation, better sleep can significantly enhance your energy levels and fight symptoms of fatigue.

5. Boosting Body Image

Undergoing cancer treatments can alter your physical appearance, which may negatively impact your self-image. But remember, you’re fighting a tough battle, and the changes your body experiences are marks of resilience.

Oncology massage is an avenue where your body is treated with utmost respect and care. This treatment can help re-establish positive thoughts and self-perception, making you feel comfortable in your skin again.

6. Easing Nausea and Vomiting

There’s evidence that tactile massages can reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. This finding is encouraging for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, which often triggers these symptoms.

While oncology massages can help manage nausea and vomiting, they should not replace prescribed medications but rather complement them to maximize benefits.

7. Brightening Moods

It’s natural to feel anxious or depressed after a cancer diagnosis. However, you don’t have to let these feelings rule your life. Oncology massage can help uplift your spirits and possibly alleviate symptoms of depression.

The combined effects of better sleep, less fatigue, relaxation, pain relief, and physical touch from massage therapy can all contribute to a generally improved mental state. Keeping a positive and fighting spirit can significantly influence your body’s resilience against this challenging condition.

In summary, oncology massage has several benefits that might help you during your cancer treatment path. While the experience is definitely challenging, a little self-care in the form of massage treatment may go a long way toward improving your general wellness and quality of life.


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Oncology Massage vs. Traditional Massage

It’s critical to understand the distinction between standard massage and oncology massage before booking a massage appointment.

Oncology massage arises as a distinct specialty within the massage therapy field. Its methodology is markedly different from that of typical massage styles. Oncology massage, which uses a light touch and moderate, steady motions, works in harmony with the central nervous system to promote calm.

It’s best to seek the advice of a massage therapist who specializes in cancer massage. It is safe to get an oncology massage every day, depending on your availability and cost concerns, as long as the therapist is well-trained in the subject.

When it comes to massage treatment for cancer patients, safety is of the utmost importance. As a result, it’s critical that the therapist you choose is well-versed in oncology massage. They should have prior familiarity with lymphedema and be able to operate around ports and medical equipment.

Before beginning an oncology massage routine, consult with your doctor to ensure that it is a good fit for your treatment plan and general well-being.

The Mental Health Benefits of Oncology Massage

Cancer can pose significant emotional challenges, with patients having to cope with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Physical malfunction can impact our mental state, and an oncology massage therapist must consider this. A cancer diagnosis can be traumatic, and treatment can be invasive, often leading to a myriad of side effects. These all have the potential to distress the patient.

On the other hand, a massage can help change the physiological environment, helping the tissue relax. It can also stimulate the Vagal nerve, a part of our parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a message throughout the body to destress. The overall mood can be boosted, insomnia can be alleviated, and sleep quality can be improved. In essence, can serve as a comprehensive healing therapy, offering physical, emotional, and mental relief.


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Is it OK to massage someone with cancer?

Yes, but it must be gentle and performed by a trained professional. Always consult with the patient’s healthcare provider first.

What body parts should not be massaged?

Avoid areas with wounds, rashes, recent surgeries, tumors, or blood clots. Consult with a healthcare provider for specific cases.

Is reflexology good for cancer patients?

Some studies suggest it may help with symptoms, but evidence is limited. Consult with a healthcare provider for individual guidance.

Is massage OK after chemo?

Yes, gentle massage can be beneficial, but it should be performed by a trained therapist and after consultation with a healthcare provider.

What is the best massage for chemo patients?

Gentle and soothing massages such as Swedish or lymphatic drainage may be preferred, but it varies by individual needs. Consultation with a healthcare provider or trained therapist is key.

The Bottom Line

While contemplating a massage appointment, it’s vital to understand the difference between traditional massage and oncology massage. Oncology massage emerges as a unique specialization within the massage therapy domain. Its approach contrasts significantly with traditional massage forms. Employing a light touch along with slow, steady movements, oncology massage works in tandem with the central nervous system to facilitate relaxation.

It’s best to seek the advice of a massage therapist who specializes in cancer massage. It is safe to get an oncology massage every day, depending on your availability and cost concerns, as long as the therapist is well-trained in the subject. When it comes to massage treatment for cancer patients, safety is of the utmost importance. As a result, it’s critical that the therapist you choose is well-versed in oncology massage.

They should possess experience with lymphedema and have the skills to work around ports and medical devices. It’s always prudent to discuss with your doctor before initiating an oncology massage regimen to ascertain if it is the right fit for your treatment plan and overall well-being.


[1] Susan Finlay, What is Oncology Massage? Retrieved from https://www.susanfindlay.co.uk/blog-what-is-oncology-massage/ Published on

[2] Benefits of oncology massage, Retrieved from  https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/benefits-of-oncology-massage 

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