Healing Hands

The Benefits of Oncology Massage

In the words of one patient, oncology massage is like "a vacation from cancer." It's a relaxing, pleasurable escape from everything that is going on. 

Each customized session is designed to address emotional and physical needs, and lessen the burden of treatment-related side effects. A properly trained oncology massage therapist can provide safe and effective massage at any stage of your cancer journey.

Understanding this technique involves a shift in how we define massage. Many people think of massage as a deep and sometimes painful kneading of the muscles. But when we talk about massage in the oncology community, it usually means very light, simple touch intended to help you reconnect with your body in a kind and healing way.

How it Helps

Oncology massage addresses the full spectrum of cancer-related issues, including the physical consequences of cancer, the side effects of various treatments, and the psychosocial and emotional considerations. Patients and their caregivers report several significant and positive changes after massage. Relaxation, scar tissue mobilization, and pain reduction are just a few of the benefits, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many more. Depending on your specific needs, massage can help in the following ways: 

General benefits:

  • deep relaxation
  • reduced stress
  • improved sleep
  • eased constipation
  • increased alertness and mental clarity
  • reduced anxiety
  • less nausea
  • reduced pain 

Following surgery:

  • easier recovery from anesthesia
  • reduced post-surgical pain
  • improved mobility and appearance of surgical scars
  • reduced swelling
  • improved range of motion
  • easier adaptation to implants and expanders

Following radiation or chemotherapy:

  • reduced post-treatment fatigue
  • improved appetite
  • improved peripheral neuropathy

Emotional benefits:

  • decreased anxiety
  • decreased depression
  • increased feelings of well-being
  • being pleasantly distracted
  • improved body self-image
  • restored hope

Oncology massage should only be performed by a therapist trained in the specifics of cancer and cancer treatment. With the appropriate knowledge, your massage therapist can safely support and nurture your healing process and help you manage your experience with cancer. 

A growing number of cancer institutes welcome massage therapy for their patients, but speak with your physician about any precautions. Additionally, find a properly licensed oncology massage therapist who will work with your physician throughout your care plan. 

Roswell Park's Resource Center for Patients and Families, in collaboration with The Body Essential Wellness Center, is now offering monthly chair massages to patients and their caregivers in the Resource Center and the lobby of the Clinical Sciences Center.