Oncology Massage Part 2: Massage with Cancer Treatments

Oncology massage is primarily to relax the client.  But everyone’s experience will be different depending on their level of treatment.

Note: This section covers the most known and questioned treatments for Cancer.  If you’re unsure if Massage or bodywork is right for you during treatment, ask your doctor.

Cancer ribbon2



Those who have gone through chemo, or are still taking chemotherapy drugs, know what the effects are on their body.  Some people lose their hair, or get very sick.

Light swedish relaxation massage is typically the safest, depending on the client’s energy level, how sick they feel, and how self conscious they are.

Personal Note: Complete hair loss and sickness does not happen to everyone.  Every body and every treatment is different.  I have two people that I know personally going through chemotherapy.  One is defying the odds and still has hair, but gets sick after their chemo session.  The other lost their hair, but doesn’t get sick. 

long hair

Studies are still being done about scalp massage.  Can it help hair grow back after chemo treatments have stopped?  The answer is: debatable.  Scalp Massage has been said to help bring blood circulation back to the hair follicles.  However, some studies say that the follicles are too deep to have any effect.

Personal Note: Most clients don’t care what the studies say.  A Massage Therapist that I discussed this subject with said that they have a cancer client who loves scalp massage simply for the fact that it’s relaxing.  The therapist says that this client threw their wig across the room that first time it was offered to them! 




Depending on the type of Radiation treatment given, massage is not recommended.  “External beam radiation” and “temporary brachytherapy” do not make a patient radioactive for a period of time.  However, radiation burns make massage uncomfortable.  The treated area is to be avoided.

“Permanant brachytherapy” and some “systemic radiation” will make the patient radioactive, but only mildly.  Massage is contraindicated during this time.  The patient’s doctor and nurses will give them instructions to follow after the treatment.




All surgeries have their own rules.  To be safe and to ensure healing, massage is contraindicated.

However, after the incision has healed, massage can be very helpful. Scar Tissue can be broken up to allow more movement.  Insomnia can also be lessened as massage promotes restfulness.

Note: If Lymph Nodes were removed during surgery, let anyone that does bodywork on you know.  This includes Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, etc.

If a Licensed Massage Therapist is trained in Oncology Massage, the client can have a relaxing, safe session.


For more information on Cancer treatments, take a look at this section from cancer.gov:



“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you just have to be willing to take it.”-Emily Hollenberg


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