The Power of Touch For Cancer Patients

Massage therapy, once thought of as a contraindication for cancer patients, has advanced to a widely-used adjunct therapy and continues to grow in acceptance. Research over the last 20 years has shown that in most cases massage therapy is both safe and beneficial to cancer care.


• Decreased symptoms related to chemo and radiation therapy, such as fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite

• Increased range of motion

• Increased relaxation

• Decreased edema

• Improved sleep

• Pain relief

• Stimulates faster wound healing

• Relief from isolation

The concept of cancer has developed beyond a single disease into a complex system of diseases and symptoms. Cancer care has shifted over the decades from simply searching for a cure to also improving the quality of life for those living with cancer. Massage is often used as a complement to cancer treatments to assist with symptoms and side effects.

One of the most important impacts massage therapy can have on a cancer patient and others with chronic illness is a sense of control that many lose after numerous doctor visits and treatments. Living with disease requires a great exertion of emotional and mental strength to cope with the physical, mental, and social effects. Massage can allow patients with cancer and other serious illnesses to determine their own control and comfort.

Many people who have lived with cancer can later suffer from lymphedema after lymph nodes are removed during surgery or if there is damage to lymph vessels. Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid, usually restricted to areas near the removed or damaged lymph nodes and vessels. It is a chronic condition that is uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to. Simple things such as finding clothes can be complicated, for instance by one arm being larger than the other.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a gentle technique (different from lymph massage) designed to help redirect lymph flow from affected areas. Manual Lymph Drainage can increase the amount of lymph fluid moved through an area to soothe and relieve pain, which helps manage lymphedema.

Choosing massage therapy as part of multidisciplinary care is a personal decision. Always discuss these treatment options with your doctor. Make sure the massage therapist has some training in cancer care because there are adjustments and modifications that need to be made in the massage.

For more information contact Midtown Massage and Bodywork at 901.596.3838 or visit

By Katrina Farber, LMT, BCMT, CMLDT

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