YOUR HEALTH and massage for cancer treatments

YOUR HEALTH and massage for cancer treatments

Cancer has physicological and physical effects on a person. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety, pain, and nausea in cancer patients. A one-hour massage therapy treatment has been shown to have much longer lasting effects. In recent studies, massage therapy has been shown to improve quality of life, decrease anxiety, increase range of motion and function, and improve body image post surgery.

Two specific types of massage that can benefit cancer patients are lymphatic drainage massage and scar massage.

Lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic obstruction is a blockage of the lymph vessels that drain fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed. Lymphatic obstruction may cause lymphedema, which means swelling due to a blockage of the lymph passages. One of the most common causes of lymphedema is removal of the breast (mastectomy) and underarm lymph tissue for breast cancer. This can cause lymphedema of the arm because the lymphatic drainage of the arm passes through the armpit (axilla). Lyphedema can also occur in the legs and neck.

Treatment for lymphedema includes:

  • Compression, usually with multi-layered bandages
  • Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
  • Range-of-motion exercises

Manual lymph drainage is a light massage therapy technique in which the skin is moved in certain directions based on the structure of the lymphatic system. This helps the lymph fluid drain through the proper channels to reduce swelling, decrease pain, and increase range of motion.

Scar massage

Scar tissue is the body’s natural way to repair damaged tissue. Fibres align and contract to reduce the size of the wound. But, scar tissue can also result in pain, reduced range of motion, decreased circulation, nerve impingement, and disruption of lymphatic flow. Scar massage can reduce pain, prevent adhesion formation, and soften scars to make them more pliable. It can also ease constriction of affected tissue and circulation. Scar massage can begin three weeks post surgery, after all staples and clips have been removed and all scabs have healed. After radiation treatment, the client must wait until the skin surrounding the scar is well healed and is no longer tender.

Massage therapy during chemotherapy or radiation

You can receive massage therapy while in treatment; however, there are a few things to consider. First, each client is treated on an individual basis and with proper communication with his or her therapist they will determine which type of treatment is best suited for them. Massage therapy should be avoided the day before or after treatment. Massage therapy is best three to seven days before treatment and three to seven days post treatment.