Oncology Massage Therapy

Oncology massage therapy is a client-specific, customized massage therapy session designed to meet the unique and changing needs of someone in treatment for cancer or with a history of cancer. A safe massage therapy care plan generally revolves around the side effects (both short- and long-term) of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Oncology massage should only be provided by a Massage Therapist who has received training in the specifics of cancer and cancer treatment. This training is actually more about cancer and less about massage. When you are receiving oncology massage therapy, you are receiving traditional, established massage therapy techniques that have been adapted to account for your unique health situation. The changes that might be made to a massage that make it an “oncology massage” can fall under any number of categories, but typically they will be related to session length, pressure, positioning, and areas of specific compromise or concern like mediports, bone metastases or skin reactions to treatment. A written treatment plan can be presented to your doctor for approval.

I am a Preferred Practitioner with the Society for Oncology Massage and have completed over 64 hours of training and hands-on practical work in cancer and lymphedema care.

Pricing

60-minute Sessions: $95

Home and hospital visits may be arranged upon request, within a range of 25 miles. Please call or email to inquire; online scheduling is not available for this service. A $20 travel fee applies.

Money is one less worry here.

Medical bills and lost wages don’t have to be an obstacle to receiving oncology massage therapy. I have options to help:

  • I offer a sliding scale for fees (for oncology massage therapy only), factoring in needed frequency and duration of massage sessions, as well as what you can comfortably manage. The scale ranges from $55 to $95.
  • Packages are also available, with discounted session rates. Please note: the total package cost is due up-front.
  • Gift certificates are available online for friends and loved ones to purchase to cover the cost of your massage sessions.
  • The Hands & Hearts Fund, a “pay it forward” program where funds are available to help cover the cost of your session in full or partially.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is oncology massage different from ‘normal’ massage?
While I always tailor a massage to the specific needs of each client, Oncology Massage Therapy has an additional set of goals and needs to be mindful of. We aim to decrease certain symptoms, like pain, nausea, and fatigue, or to improve sleep. We may also be helping with anxiety or depression, which tends to also come with being in cancer treatment.

We also ask a bit about the client’s health picture, in order to make adjustments where they’re needed and most beneficial. For example, we need to adapt the massage to things like bone or vital organ involvement, and lymph node radiation or removal. We need to know the effects of current treatment on the skin or blood cell counts. And even when cancer treatment was years ago, some of those effects can linger, and we safely adapt to those for the maximum benefit of the client.

I heard massage could spread cancer. Is that true?
In a word: no. Skilled massage therapy will not spread cancer.

This is a decades-old myth, that massage would spread cancer by increasing blood circulation. It simply hasn’t held up to what science and medicine now know about how cancer spreads. If cancer spread – metastasis – were as simple as how fast tumor cells were carried through the bloodstream, then certainly exercise and movement would be discouraged for people with cancer, because they also speed up circulation.

Instead, oncologists encourage exercise and movement wherever possible. We no longer have that old fear of increasing circulation, because we now understand metastasis is a more complex process, involving interactions of cancer cells with their environment, genetics, as well as other factors.

Today, exercise and massage are recommended for people with cancer and cancer histories, and many hospitals and cancer centers offer massage therapy as part of the treatment program, and beyond. These Massage Therapists, like myself, are trained to offer safe, effective massage therapy to anyone with cancer or a history of cancer.

How do we know massage can help people with cancer?
We know it’s helpful, first, because our clients tell us it is. People tell me, for example, that massage helps with their stress, sleep problems, pain, anxiety, depression, body image and awareness, fatigue, and so on.

So while the body of research on oncology massage is small just now, it’s growing, and what’s out there does suggest that massage can help with pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. The research does seem to be reinforcing what our clients are telling us.

Do I need a doctor’s note to get a massage?
A growing number of physicians welcome massage therapy for their patients, but it is not realistic to expect them to be aware of all the variations. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the massage therapist to practice ethically and within his/her training and experience. A doctor’s note or order is not a replacement for sound judgment on the part of a massage therapist.

Even with a doctor’s order, it is best for the client/patient to see a trained oncology massage therapist who will know the appropriate questions to ask in order to make safe adjustments to the massage, and who will often include the physician in the massage care plan conversation if needed.