It is unfortunate that many still fear massage and touch because they believe it to be contraindicated for cancer patients. Misunderstanding, poor education and the aggressive therapist have led to this perspective pervading modern culture. The truth is, massage and compassionate touch have a very important role in cancer recovery.
Now, does this mean that manipulation of the soft tissue cannot lead to the spread of cancerous cells throughout the body? No. But notice, how I didn’t call it massage?! The reason I don’t is because the force required to induce metastasis is beyond the scope of what should be considered massage.
Aggressive disruption of the soft tissue creates significant damage, and this is not something we’d be doing in a treatment with cancer patients. At least, it’s not something we should do when working with cancer patients.
Treating people who have cancer is quite different to working with people who don’t. The focus of our work is different and with an appropriate amount of pressure, due consideration for the location, type and stage of the cancer, massage can be incredibly supportive to any and all cancer-treatment regimens.
Tumors that have yet to pierce the basement membrane of its local tissue cannot metastasize as a result of appropriate massage pressure. In order for cancer cells to spread, they must either do so on their own or they must be disrupted with pressure that is beyond the scope of practice.
The most important thing to consider is the intent and/or the purpose for treatment. Therapists need to be trained in the appropriate use of pressure, massage tools and considerations.
If anyone you know is considering massage as a complementary therapy as they go through cancer treatment, be sure to have detailed conversations with your therapist about their education and training, and their understanding of the particular type of cancer and its treatment.
Ultimately, when you align with the right practitioners, massage will never lead to the spread of cancerous cells, and even more than this, it will have positive physical, psychological and emotional benefits.
If you found this article useful you might also like to see our E-Magazine issue dedicated to discussing Touch & Cancer.