Massage Therapy and Cancer Part 2

By May 5, 2015Blog, Cancer

Review of Part 1


Massage Therapy does not treat or cure cancer; it alleviates symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments.


There is no research demonstrating that Massage Therapy has any effect on the spread (metastasis) of cancer, for or against. The plausibility of the claim that massage can spread cancer is highly suspect, and not based on scientific principle.


Massage Therapy has been demonstrated to reduce the perception of pain, nausea, anxiety, and stress. It can increase positive neurotrans
mitters (serotonin and dopamine) and immune cells (natural killer cells and lymphocytes).


Doctors ConsultationPart 2 – Potential rare adverse events and how to avoid them


We will now consider potential negative side effects and how they can be easily avoided. We will also discuss the importance of seeing a trained and qualified Massage Therapist.


“Studies of massage for cancer patients suggest massage can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue. Many health care professionals recognize massage as a useful, noninvasive addition to standard medical treatment. Therapeutic massage is most often given by trained massage therapists” (American Cancer Society, 2013).[i]


“Conventional care for patients with cancer can safely incorporate massage therapy, although cancer patients may be at higher risk of rare adverse events.”[ii]


What are these potential adverse events?


Below are the three concerns listed by Corbin (2005).


1. Coagulation disorder runs the adverse risk of bleeding; pressure should be lightened and deep tissue massage avoided.

2. Metastatic cancer in bones runs the adverse risk of fractures; pressure should be lightened over these areas, or the specific area can be avoided fully.

3. Open wounds or those with radiation dermatitis have a risk of increased pain or infection; areas with these issues should not be massaged directly.


These three adverse events can easily be avoided. This is why a discussion with your physician or oncologist is very important. If there are possible yellow or red flags, they will be aware of this information and ensure that they include any contraindications (red flags) in their referral.


A trained Massage Therapist will include an assessment and interview before any hands-on treatment. A detailed medical history would likely reveal these underlying conditions and modify accordingly. If you do fall under one of these categories, however, I suggest you clearly let your therapist know as soon as possible.


Continuing with another quote from Corbin, “[t]he oncologist should feel comfortable discussing massage therapy with patients and be able to refer patients to a qualified massage therapist as appropriate”(2005).


This importance of seeking a qualified massage therapist cannot be overstated.


“It is important to have massage done by a trained professional with experience in working safely with people with cancer. Be sure they know about your cancer and treatment. Massage therapy is a regulated health profession in some provinces and territories in Canada. Massage therapists are often registered (registered massage therapist, or RMT). This means they are a qualified massage practitioner and must practice within certain standards”(Canadian Cancer Society, 2015).[iii]


British Columbia is one of the regulated provinces in Canada and all PainPRO therapists are licensed RMTs.


We are evidence-informed therapists who operate within our scope of practice to provide safe and effective massage therapy.


We work within the health care system, and encourage inter-disciplinary communication with other health care professionals.


If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a message or give us a call. Remember to ask your physician or oncologist about Massage Therapy to determine if it is right for you, and what modification will ensure a safe and effective treatment.




[ii] Corbin L. (2005). Safety and efficacy of massage therapy for patients with cancer. Cancer Control, 12(3), 158-164.


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