Massage Therapy and Cancer – Part 1

This blog will explore what Massage Therapy can and cannot do for individuals with cancer. It will explore the symptomatic relief supported by a large body of research.


Massage Therapy does not treat cancer


There is no scientific evidence that massage can treat cancer. However, massage is commonly used to help people feel better and to reduce some of the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment” (Cancer Research UK, 2015).[i]


Massage Therapy cannot cure, or even treat cancer itself. Any and all research mentioned in this blog is looking at how Massage Therapy can decrease symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments.


Massage Therapy does not metastasize cancer


There is no evidence to suggest that massage therapy can spread cancer, it is sensible for people with cancer to avoid massage near and over tumours and lumps that may be cancerous” (Canadian Cancer Society, 2015).[ii]


There has been the claim for some time that Massage Therapy may spread cancers by via metastasis. This claim is based on the circulatory effects of massage. When you consider what effect massage therapy has on circulation versus walking, or going up a flight of stairs, this claim becomes slightly ludicrous and not based on scientific principle. I am not aware of any other specific reasons for this unsubstantiated claim.


There is also no empirical evidence demonstrating that massage therapy does not lead to metastasis (because the research has not been done). Having a discussion with your physician or oncologist about Massage Therapy is an absolute must. I cannot stress this enough that anyone with cancer wanting Massage Therapy should discuss it with their physician or oncologist first.


With that in mind, if your doctor is worried about negative effects of Massage Therapy, ask them why, and if they have any research regarding the topic (if they do, please send it to me).


Now that those two very important topics have been discussed. Let us now turn to what research has to say about the Massage Therapy and symptomatic relief for patients with cancer.

 medical community

 What can Massage Therapy do?


  • Massage Therapy reduces the perception of pain in those with cancer and those going through cancer treatments [iii][iv][v]
  • Massage Therapy decreases nausea caused by chemotherapy[vi][vii][viii]
  • Massage Therapy decreases anxiety associated with cancer treatments[ix][x]
  • Massage Therapy decreases stress (perceived stress and cortisol serum levels) in those undergoing cancer treatments[xi][xii]
  • Massage Therapy has been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin, along with natural killer cell and lymphocyte numbers[xiii][xiv][xv]
  • Massage Therapy can improve mood and decrease mood disturbances in those going through cancer treatments [xvi][xvii]


In Summary:


With a long list of positive effects, Massage Therapy can have an incredible impact on quality of life and symptomatic suffering for patients with cancer, and those going through cancer treatments.


In Part 2 I will explore the potential adverse events that can occur in rare cases, and how they can be easily avoided by first getting a medical referral, and then by the Massage Therapist taking a medical history before any hands-on treatment.


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.



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