The benefits of massage for a person with cancer are numerous. The therapist’s intentions and the quality of touch provided could make a world of difference to a client who has recently experienced a variety of invasive and painful tests and procedures. The therapy is not intended to “fix” the client, but to provide love, nurturing, relaxation and quality of life.
Massage can relieve post-operative pain and edema, and promote the removal of toxins as it assist in the flow of lymph, blood and oxygen. Over time, clients will experience increased range of motion, reduced scar tissue, restored feeling and sensation by stimulating nerve endings, an improved body image and may become more aware and reconnected to themselves. Aside from massage generally promoting better health and overall well-being, it just feels good!
The concern that increasing circulation via massage will cause the spread of cancer is unfounded. Cancer can spread with little or no activity, such as sleeping, breathing, eating, walking, etc. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that gentle, light or compassionate touch can be administered safely and effectively, provided that no direct pressure or massage is applied to the traumatized area affected by disease.
Light massage may actually have a protective effect, as it keeps the blood and lymph circulating. Touch may help prevent tumor proliferation, as it reduces the body’s levels of glucocorticoids and cortisol-hormonal measurements of the body’s stress levels. Conversely, high levels of these substances in the body have been linked to tumor growth.
Deep massage is always contraindicated in people with active cancer or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Massage only will tax a system already overloaded by the trauma of cancer and treatment, and it can induce an inflammatory response. Therefore, the therapist will take a good client history, adjust the depth of touch, and select the appropriate touch modality, with the individual client in mind. Cancer massage guidelines should always be top of mind.
Along with the diagnosis is the most obvious impact – the surgical amputation and loss of a body part. Accompanying emotional and psychological impacts can include fear of loss of loved ones and family, disconnected from self, denial, and anger. This a special time to help the client feel connected to his/her body and be able to heal.
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