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Oncology massage therapy (by Lucy Littlewood)
Oncology massage therapy (by Lucy Littlewood)

“Oncology massage therapy is a type of massage that is specific to a person who is living with cancer and for those who have had a history of cancer. This comfort-oriented massage is tailored for each individual, from those in active treatment to those in recovery or survivorship, as well as for those at the end of life.” Oncology Massage Alliance website.

Oncology Massage is a specialized, client specific massage, which is centred around the long and short term side effects of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. It can help to lessen the symptoms of both the treatment and the disease. Exercise is recommended (as much as you like) during cancer treatment as exercise releases endorphins – known as the ‘happy hormone’, which can reduce pain and increase your sense of well being. Massage also releases endorphins and helps to facilitate post exercise recovery.

Before we start your massage I will need to take a detailed history and my questions could include:

What is your cancer treatment history?
Where was the original tumour site or metastasis?
Have you got compromised blood cell counts?
Was there any lymph node involvement?
Do you have any blood clots or blood clot risk?
Are you on any medications (short and long term)?
Was there any vital organ involvement?
Have you got any fragile or unstable tissue?
Do you have any medical devices?
Do you suffer from fatigue, neuropathy, or pain?
Do you have any changes in sensation?

I can provide a safe and effective massage treatment to someone in any stage of their journey, as a complimentary therapy to run alongside conventional medical care, not replace it, and has many advantages. These can include stress and anxiety reduction, relaxed muscles, which can increase mobility and reduce joint stiffness. Massage reduces the adhesive qualities of tissue. It can help to rehabilitate injured muscles and also raises the endorphin levels in the body, which improves your mood. Massage can help improve your quality of sleep.

I qualified as a level 5 Sport and Remedial Massage therapist in July 2016, and I did an Oncology Massage course in September 2016. I did both these courses with the North London School of Sports Massage (NLSSM).
In my oncology course I covered:

How to understand cancer and how it forms, its growth patterns, malignancy, the Risk factors – both the modifiable and less modifiable, the Benefits of bodywork, Dispelling the myths based on research, Treatment options, conventional and complementary therapies, Effects of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy & drug treatment, Psychological demands of treatment, the disease & social influences, Massage modification and considerations, Gauging a clients level of tolerance, Conditions & side effects associated with cancer and treatment: Alopecia, Anaemia, Anorexia-cachexia, Bone fragility, Breathing difficulties, Constipation, Fatigue, Oedema, Lymphoedema, Neutropenia (immunosuppression), Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Thrombocytopenia, Scars and adhesions, Skin care during radiation and Medical devices: Central lines, Collection bags and Ports.


Oncology Massage will not spread cancer, as there will be no massaging directly over the tumour site and the pressure, which is much lighter than in traditional massage, is highly unlikely to cause the cancer cells to diffuse through the body.

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