“Massage therapy is not contraindicated in cancer patients; massaging a tumor is, but there is a great deal more to a person than their tumor.”
— Bernie Siegel, MD
by Carl Johns, LMT Director, ASIS Massage Education-Flagstaff
There was a longstanding myth that people with cancer should not receive massage therapy out of fear it could spread the disease. But as the eminent cancer specialist Dr. Bernie Siegel said, a person is much more than their tumor, and by the 1980s and 1990s many complementary and alternative medicine models came into hospital settings as an adjunct to conventional cancer therapies.
Massage has been by far the most popular of these therapies, reconnecting the patient with a sense of wholeness through touch to elicit a strong relaxation response.
A cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment — often surgery, radiation and chemotherapy — is certainly one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Massage therapy enhances the function of most of our major body systems by improving sleep, digestion, respiration and circulation, immune function, and our overall sense of well-being.
The role of the therapist is not to fix or to cure but to nurture and promote relaxation and all of its attending benefits. We accept without judgement all of our clients’ decisions about treatment and work to promote relaxation and wellness during difficult times, enhancing daily quality of life through our presence and our nurturing touch.
If you are a massage therapist, settle into this simplicity and bring the full power of your heart and your hands to each session. If you are a client with cancer, seek out the most comforting and relaxing bodywork you can find and open to the healing power within you.