Why do people with cancer use massage?
As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer say that having a massage:
- makes them feel whole again
- helps them to relax
- helps them share feelings in an informal setting
- makes them feel more positive about their body
- rebuilds hope
Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissue does not spread cancer cells.
What are the benefits of massage?
Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery.
These studies have shown that massage may reduce:
- anxiety and depression
Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in:
- the health of the scar tissue
- quality of life
- mental clarity and alertness
- the range of movement
Is massage safe for people with cancer?
Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs and nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally as we move.
Cancer may spread (metastasise) into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops and spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA (genetic mutations) and other processes in the body.