There are many reasons why manual therapy can be important for cancer patients, both during treatment and post-treatment.  At Massage Therapy Connections, we require doctor’s permission for massage for those patients currently in or recently completing treatment.  Even for those who have completed cancer treatment long ago, we strongly recommend they speak with their doctor prior to beginning any massage therapy.

Cancer Pain

According to the Mayo Clinic, “1 out of 3 people undergoing cancer treatment” experience cancer pain.  This pain may be a result of the cancer itself, chemicals released by cancer in the region of the tumor, or from cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgeries).  Read more here.

As an oncologist, pain can be addressed through medications, or specialized treatments such as nerve blocks.  But many alternative therapies can be effective in treating pain:  acupuncture, acupressure, massage, physical therapy, relaxation, meditation and even humor!

Pain is also a stress factor that when addressed, can lower stress levels and promote the healing powers of the body.

Can massage therapy contribute to the spread of cancer? [from Science Daily, Oct 25, 2013]

“Research continues to dispute the myth that massage causes the spread of cancer cells through the lymphatic system. Research also indicates oncology massage does not cause any more of an increase in blood flow than exercise and normal physical movement.

Many cancer centers offer massage therapy as a form of treatment to reduce symptoms related to chemotherapy and enhance the patient’s quality of life. Trigger point therapy is encouraged to reduce nausea as a side effect of chemotherapy. Light massage strokes help reduce pain, muscle tension and mental stress.

Norma Reyna, massage therapist at Houston Methodist Hospital, says it is important to discuss options with your oncologist before beginning massage therapy. Cautionary measures should be taken to reduce possible risk of bruising and soreness. • Adjusting massage pressure for each patient to avoid unnecessary bruising. • Ensuring the patients will not have adverse reactions to lotions or oils. • Avoiding aggressive massage therapies during cancer treatments, including deep tissue massage and sports massages.”

Read the full article here.

Risk of Lymphedema

Cancer is the #1 cause of Lymphedema in the United States.  It is not from the actual cancer itself, but due to the fact that many cancer treatments involve either surgical removal of lymph nodes and/or radiation to lymph node regions.  The definition of Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system.  As oncologists, you can provide great information on understanding lymphedema and the risk factors associated with lymphatic swelling.

Massage Therapy Connections has Certified Lymphedema Therapists who can provide all the components of complete decongestive treatment of lymphedema:  Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Compression Bandaging, Patient Education, and Compression Garments (used once swelling is reduced).  We also have a wealth of material from the National Lymphedema Network that can be provided to your office for patient education.  These include:

<——  “6 Things You May Not Know About Lymphedema” Rack Card

“Lymphedema: Information, Knowledge, Support” – 3-fold pamphlet ——>

As on oncologist, you can also request a copy of a 17-page booklet called “Lymphedema: An Information Booklet” (see below).  This booklet covers causes of lymphedema (primary and secondary), signs and symptoms, screening and early detection, diagnosing, infection and other complications, risk reduction practices, recommended treatment, and more.

To request any of these materials, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Same client after treatment series

Bi-Lateral Lower Extremity Lymphedema – Before Treatment

Actual Client Results

These photos are an example of a MTC Client who received Complete Decongestive Therapy for Lymphedema, showing before and after a series of sessions.

Research Articles/Papers

Armer, J.M., & Steward, B.R. (2005).  A comparison of four diagnostic criteria for lymphedema in a post-breast cancer population.  Lymphatic Research and Biology, 3(4), 208 -217.

Armer, J.M., Radina, M.E., Porock, D., & Culbertson, S.D. (2003).  Predicting breast cancer related lymphedema using self-reported symptoms.  Nursing Research, 52(6), 370-379.

Bani, H.A., Fasching, P.A., Lux, M.M., Rauh, C., Willner, M., Eder, I., et al. (2007). Lymphedema in breast cancer survivors: Assessment and information provision in a specialized breast unit.  Patient Education and Counseling, 66(3), 311-318.

Bicego, D., Brown, K., Ruddick, M., Storey, D., Wong, C., & Harris, S.R. (2006).  Exercise for women with or at risk for breast cancer related lymphedema.  Physical Therapy, 86(10), 1398-1405.

Bunce, I.H., Mirolo, B.R., Hennessy, J.M., et. al. Post-mastectomy Lymphedema Treatment and Measurement. Med. J. Aust. 161: 125-28; 1994.  (via AMTA)

National Lymphedema Network: The Diagnosis and Treatment of Lymphedema

Cohen SR, Payne DK, Tunkel RS. Lymphedema:  Strategies for Management.  Cancer 2001; 92(4 Suppl): 980-87.  (UK Consensus Bibliography)