Massage Therapy for Cancer Care and Lymphedema

Massage can be a helpful tool in oncology care when appropriate modifications are made. Research shows that it can be useful for relieving some of the conditions associated with cancer, such as pain, fatigue, nausea, and lymphedema. Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid that causes an area of the body to swell. It occurs in people who have had lymph nodes damaged or removed, which is common in those who have lived with cancer. It can be a chronic condition that inhibits everyday living.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is part of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which is used to treat lymphedema. It is a massage technique that may help ease lymphedema prior to its onset or after signs have begun. This gentle technique helps increase and redirect lymph flow from affected areas. By clearing inflammation and redirected congested fluid, it assists with relieving pain.

MLD and oncology massage are safe treatments for people currently in chemotherapy and radiation therapy. MLD is also a useful technique for other injuries including whiplash, sprains, post-surgical edema, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and migraines.

When seeking a therapist trained in oncology massage and MLD, it is important to seek someone who has received professional training. It is also important to understand that Manual Lymph Drainage and lymph massage are different techniques.

For people affected by cancer, visit the Society for Oncology Massage website ( to find a qualified massage therapist. They should have received some continuing education in oncology massage before taking clients who have lived with cancer. Benefits of Oncology Massage include increased circulation, increased range of motion and relaxation, improved sleep, decreased fatigue and nausea, decreased anxiety and depression, and relief of muscle soreness.

Kat Farber, LMT, BCMT a Licensed and Board Certified Massage Therapist and Certified Manual Lymph Drainage Therapist with training for Oncology Massage. For more information visit

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