What is Massage?
Massage is an ancient technique that involves manipulating muscles & rubbing or stroking soft tissues of the body.
Massage is considered a type of complementary therapy. Complementary therapies aim to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease. They are used together with conventional or mainstream medicine. Complementary therapies are not used instead of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or drug therapy.
While massage doesn’t treat the cancer itself, it may help reduce the side effects caused by conventional treatments & improve quality of life & wellbeing.
Why do People With Cancer Use Massage ?
As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer say that having a massage :
- Makes them feel whole again
- Helps them to relax
- Helps them share feelings in an informal setting
- Makes them feel more positive about their body
- Rebuilds hope
Research shows that massage of muscle & soft tissue does not spread cancer cells.
What are the Benefits of Massage?
Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy & surgery. These studies have shown that massage may reduce :
- Anxiety & Depression.
Individuals who have had massage during cancer treatment have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in :
- The health of the scar tissue
- Quality of life
- Mental clarity & alertness
- The range of movement.
Is Massage Safe for People with Cancer ?
Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area & underlying organs. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs & nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally as we move.
Cancer may spread (metastasise) into the lymphatic system via lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph- from massage or other movement- does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops & spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA (genetic mutations) & other processes in the body.
Where Can I Have Massage ?
Massage may be offered to cancer patients in some hospitals & hospices. Ask your doctor or nurse if massage is available at the centre where you are having your treatment. Some patients are able to have chemotherapy & a hand or foot massage at the same time, or you may prefer to have the massage after the treatment has finished.
You can also have a massage from a private practitioner in their own rooms. Some massage therapists have undertaken specialist oncology massage training. The Oncology Massage Training website can help you locate one near you.
Research into Massage for People with Cancer
Several clinical studies show that massage can reduce symptoms such as stress, nausea, pain fatigue & depression.
I hope one day that there will be a cure for cancer ? But until that day, Anything that can help ease the suffering must be worth it. Right?
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