Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

December 31, 2012

Massage is considered a complementary modality in cancer care, used in tandem with medical therapies to promote comfort. The strongest evidence for the use of massage in cancer care suggests its ability to reduce pain and anxiety.

Massage is considered a complementary modality in cancer care, used in tandem with medical therapies to promote comfort. The strongest evidence for the use of massage in cancer care suggests its ability to reduce pain and anxiety. But in addition to these indications, massage also promotes relaxation and reduces feelings of isolation.

Johnnette du Rand Kelly

Johnnette du Rand Kelly, massage therapist, aesthetician, and an MLD therapist, founder of Greet the Day, Newport Beach, California, discussed these topics during her presentation, “Using Evidence-Based Oncology Massage in Your Practice,” at Scripps Cancer Center’s 32nd annual Oncology Nurses Symposium, held October 7–10, in San Diego.

Massage interventions are very individualized and “not one size fits all.” This is particularly the case in its use with cancer patients. Some clinical considerations that are determined by du Rand Kelly prior to providing massage include the following:

• Presence of low blood counts;
• Presence of blood clots;
• Evidence of bone metastases;
• Location of any implanted devices;
• Lymph node involvement;
• Presence of neuropathy.

Evidence of any of these conditions does not automatically preclude the use of massage, but they influence the tailoring of the massage interventions.

In the hospital setting, hand and foot massages are often appropriate and can be provided by nurses. Gentle massage with light lotion at a slow pace facilitates intentional touch that is restful, supportive, nurturing, and comforting. It can also be beneficial prior to invasive procedures, radiologic tests, and surgery. Three resources were highlighted:

• Society for Oncology Massage;
• National Lymphedema Network;
• Society for Integrative Oncology.

Greet the Day is a nonprofit organization, specializing in oncology massage and education (www.GreetTheDay.org).