Massage Therapy for Breast Cancer Patients

Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 01:05 PM

Women wearing pink shirts to support breast cancer research

What is Breast Cancer?

Cancer occurs when there is an abnormal change or mutation in cells. When cells in the breast stop behaving as they should or stop growing, this can lead to non-cancerous breast conditions such as cysts, intraductal papillomas or hyperplasia. In some cases, these changes can cause breast cancer., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information and community to those who are touched by the disease, defines breast cancer as "a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast."


How Can Massage Therapy Help?

Massage therapy can help cancer patients improve their overall health and well-being while going through treatment or post-treatment.

It is important to know that massage therapy will not treat cancer itself but is a great complementary therapy for conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, primarily the muscle and connective tissue. It is often used to treat muscle soreness and stiffness and to help reduce pain.

However, there are several other benefits from massage therapy treatments that can help alleviate some of the symptoms and side effects of cancer and conventional cancer treatments.

A study from the University of Minneapolis found that massage and healing touch lowered anxiety and fatigue in cancer patients. Patients also reported lower pain, resulting in less use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

There are also specific specializations such as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) that can reduce the swelling from lymphedema in breast cancer patients.


What Precautions Should I take?

Find the Right Massage Therapist

Some massage therapists that have special training for treating specific clients, such as those battling cancer. As mentioned above, there are also some specialties like MLD that can address specific concerns that breast cancer patients might have.

It is also best to let your therapist know when you book what your current health condition is.

Massage therapists will spend time at the beginning of your appointment consulting you about your goals, limitations, medications, current or past treatments, areas you would like to focus on, and give you a chance to inform them of any other health concerns or injuries you may have.

If you have never had a massage therapy treatment before, you can read our blog What to Expect at Your First Massage Therapy Appointment so you know exactly what to expect when you arrive.


Consult Your Doctor

It is extremely important that you consult your doctor or health care team before adding additional treatments to your plan for recovery.

This will also give you the chance to ask your doctor about all of the potential risks and precautions you and the practitioner should be taking before, during, and after the treatment.

Additionally, your doctor can provide you with any recommendations they might have for therapists.


Be Aware of the Risks

While massage therapy may have many positive results for breast cancer patients, it also exposes you to some risks. These risks may vary depending on different factors such as recent surgeries, presence of lymphedema, or your treatment plan. outlines several potential risks and directions to address them. For example, avoiding the sensitive skin around the treatment area if you are undergoing radiation.


How Do I find A Massage Therapist?

If you choose to try massage therapy as a complementary treatment, it is important to find a therapist that is right for you. A credible place to find a therapist is on the website of the regulatory body in your area.

As a national professional association, the NHPC has members across Canada. You can find an NHPC therapist near you using our member directory. There are several other associations across the country and a College of Massage Therapists in provinces where massage therapy is regulated.

Clinics and practitioners can also be found using a search engine like Google. For this method and any other, it is important to check for reviews to ensure they are offering quality services and to check they are registered with the College if massage therapy is regulated in your province.

Finally, as previously mentioned, your doctor or health care team can be a great resource for recommendations and referrals.

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