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Can I still have a massage if I have cancer ?

The power of touch for cancer patients is so important yet is so often ignored by massage therapists.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be an overwhelming and challenging experience, and it's often a long road ahead not only for the individual facing the disease, but also for their families and caregivers.... The healing power of touch is well documented in terms of helping with wellbeing, sleep and pain relief. Yet when you have a cancer diagnosis so often touch is of a necessary ' medical ' persuasion, prodding, poking ( often with a needle ! ) and often perfunctuary. So a light gentle touch that can soothe, calm and release all those important wellbeing hormones like serotonin and dopamine is so helpful.

Does massage need to be specialised for cancer?

When you are facing a cancer diagnosis you need your support team around you. Unfortunately, many people can face the disheartening experience of being turned down for a massage at spas when they divulge a cancer diagnosis. Not always, but the ' BIg C' word scares many people and it can feel like it's just another slap in the face at a time when you don't want to feel like a freak - you just want to feel better for Pete's sake ! Not everywhere, but the ' BIg C' word scares many people and sadly some patients have described how they can metaphorically see the shutters rolling down on the therapist's face when they divulge a cancer diagnosis -and it can feel like it's just another slap in the face at a time when you don't want to feel like a freak - you just want to feel better for Pete's sake ! This underscores the importance of seeking out specialist therapists with specific training ( and insurance ! ) in oncology massage. Equipped to understand the nuances of cancer care and able to tailor their techniques to maintain your safety and comfort.

Physical benefits of massage

  1. Pain Management: Cancer treatments often bring about pain and discomfort, ironically often more so than the disease. Specialised oncology cancer care massage can help manage pain by promoting relaxation, releasing muscle tension, and improving blood circulation. Gentle, targeted techniques can alleviate the physical discomfort that may accompany cancer therapies.

  2. Improved Range of Motion: Cancer and its treatments can lead to stiffness and restricted movement. Specialised cancer massage focuses on enhancing flexibility and restoring the range of motion. This is particularly beneficial for patients who may experience mobility issues due to surgery or other medical interventions such as shoulder stuffness following breast surgery.

  3. Lymphatic Drainage: Some cancer treatments can result in lymphodema, a condition characterised by the swelling of the limbs. Specialised massage techniques, such as manual lymphatic drainage ( MLD ), can help reduce the swelling by promoting the natural drainage of lymphatic fluid and making the limb more flexible and comfortable.

Mental Health Benefits of massage.

  1. Stress Reduction: A cancer diagnosis brings emotional stress for both the patient and their loved ones. Specialised cancer care massage has been proven to reduce stress levels by triggering the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormones. This can contribute to an improved overall mood and mental well-being.

  2. Anxiety and Depression Relief: Cancer patients often grapple with anxiety and depression. Regular sessions of specialised cancer care massage can significantly alleviate these emotional challenges, providing a safe and comforting space for individuals to relax and reconnect with their bodies and unburden to someone.

  3. Enhanced Quality of Sleep: Sleep disturbances are common among cancer patients. Specialised cancer care massage promotes relaxation and can contribute to improved sleep quality. A well-rested body is better equipped to cope with the physical and emotional demands of cancer treatment.

Remember, the cancer journey is often a marathon not a sprint so you need your team around you to get you through !

The body comes with a head attached and whilst the medical team are absolutely amazing at looking after the body they are busy teams with a multitide of patients to look after. I sometimes feel a little is lost along the way in terms of looking after the head and the heart. That's where the holistic therapist can step in as another valuable member of the support squad needed for the road ahead. We don't replace, we work alongside your team.

Massages to avoid

While the benefits of massage therapy ( and touch in general ) are evident, it's crucial to be mindful of specific types of massages that may not be suitable for individuals with a cancer diagnosis. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are, necessarily, tough on the body and may leave long lasting changes to the skin, circulation and bony systems. Deep tissue massages or those involving strong pressure may exacerbate existing health issues or interfere with ongoing treatments. We don't want to send anyone out looking like they have just gone 8 rounds with Mike Tyson so a very firm pressure often isn't suitable. We do ask that you always consult with your own oncology team to see if there are any hurdles we should be aware of so we can determine the most appropriate approach for your unique situation.

Jo, our cancer care massage specialist.

Jo is our wonderful massage therapist that has specific training in delivering massage for cancer care and Reiki alike, Her extensive experience working at a local cancer care charity means she regularly deals with patients at various stages of their cancer journey and is well versed in the particular problems emotional and physical that are often unique to people facing these particular challenges.


Beyond its physical advantages, massage provides a myriad of mental health benefits for cancer patients. It's well known that the soothing touch of a skilled therapist can alleviate anxiety, reduce stress, and promote a sense of well-being and let's face it - when you are looking down the sharp end of a cancer journey you need all the help you can get !. In the face of the emotional challenges that cancer brings, this form of massage becomes a holistic approach to healing, addressing both the body, mind and soul. Please don't hesitate to contact us if we can be of help.

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