Myth: Massage therapy is not safe while living with cancer

By: Janet Penny, RMT

This long held myth is tenacious and often on the minds of people who are looking for the many benefits that massage can bring to living with cancer. 

This myth was based on the fear that massage would accelerate the transportation of cancer cells through the circulation of blood and lymph.

Exercise is routinely recommended by oncologists to help manage fatigue, anxiety and the physical discomforts of cancer treatment. If a brisk walk, swim or bike ride is not considered a risk factor for metastasis then neither is massage.

The rationale for this answer is that the spread of cancer is not simply a mechanical process. The complexity of metastasis requires a variety of factors to be present at the same time. First, cancer cells must shed from the original tumour before being transported through the blood stream or lymphatic system. In order for the cancer cells to create a secondary tumour they must plant in tissues that can support their growth.

Massage therapy is known to be helpful in managing pain, anxiety, treating surgical scars and promoting better sleep – all situations that commonly arise during cancer treatments. Restorative and rehabilitative massage treatments are not simply a luxury; they can greatly contribute to regaining full functioning and energy during and after medical treatments for cancer.

To ensure a treatment that is both safe and effective, look for a massage therapist trained in oncology massage.

Enjoy your next massage!