massage during cancer treatment

Going through cancer treatment is often a stressful and bewildering experience. It’s common for people undergoing chemotherapy to search for ways to relieve stress and reduce pain during and after treatment. One strategy that can help is receiving a massage during cancer treatment.

Find out how a massage during chemotherapy can help you physically and mentally during your cancer journey.

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Benefits of Massage During Cancer Treatment

Receiving a massage has a range of advantages when you’re going through cancer treatment. For starters, massage relieves stress, increases mental clarity, and helps you relax, according to the Society for Oncology Massage. A calming massage can also reduce nausea, lessen pain, and improve your mood.

A massage during cancer treatment can help soothe your anxiety following chemotherapy or before surgery and reduce post-surgical pain and swelling.

Mental benefits of a massage include increased feelings of well-being, decreased rates of depression, and restored hope. People undergoing chemo for breast cancer reported that receiving a massage lessened their anxiety, reduced their nausea, and even decreased their fatigue, according to a study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Best Areas for an Oncology Massage

You probably already have a favorite body part for a massage, but some of the most common massage locations for people undergoing cancer treatment are the hands, feet, scalp, and shoulders.

These are less invasive spots than other places on your body, but still have significant pressure points that can have affect the rest of your body.

Can a hand or foot massage really make that much difference? The answer is yes. People undergoing chemo who received a 20-minute hand massage reported significant improvement in fatigue, anxiety, muscular discomfort, nervousness, stress, happiness, energy, relaxation, calmness, and emotional well-being, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Science and Healing.

Where to Find an Oncology Massage

The Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center (WIOP) creates a customized care plan for cancer patients who would like to take advantage of massage and other mind, body, and soul methods to relieve symptoms and improve their quality of life.

A medical oncologist will assess your symptoms in conjunction with specific details, such as your type of cancer, prior surgeries, and whether you’re currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation.

Our oncology massage therapists are available onsite in the Wellness Suite at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Massage therapists also travel to patients who have a difficult time leaving home.

Oncology massage therapists have additional training in anatomy, lymph node drainage, and equipment, including ports and drains that are common in cancer patients.

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Because the oncology massage therapists at the WIOP understand the side effects of cancer treatments and receive referrals and direction from the medical oncologist, they know how to adjust massage techniques for your safety.

WIOP Nurse Ambassadors who are trained by the oncology massage therapists and vetted through the program offer hand and foot massages during cancer treatment.

If you’re offered a massage during your cancer treatment, consider giving it a try. Receiving a massage during chemotherapy can help you better cope with your experience and soothe both your body and spirit as you continue your cancer care.

If you schedule a massage from a therapist in your local community during your cancer treatment, look for an oncology massage therapist or tell your masseuse about your cancer treatment and any sensitivity you may have before the massage. For example, mention recent or prior surgeries, smell sensitivities, or painful areas on your body.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.