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Cancer and Massage

When I first started in massage in 1987, the golden rule was never massage anyone with cancer. Times have changed and the golden rule no longer holds true.  Working with cancer patients can be the most rewarding, soul searching, emotional experience and  you may have as a practitioner.
Here are some guidelines to support you along the way.

  1. Research as much as you can about the type of cancer your patient has.  Find out what is involved in their treatments.  Talk with the patient.  Talk with the patients doctors.  Become informed.
  2. If they are going through chemotherapy or radiation, research the drugs that are being used.  Their bodies are going to be destroyed by the drugs.  They may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, and an extreme fluctuation in emotions.  Fear will be with them through out the process.
  3. The best thing you can do for your client is be there and not interfere in their process or be judgmental.  Stand back and look at what they are going through and decide how can you best support their process.  If you step in and start suggesting alternative therapies they might be overwhelmed.  If they want something different or more information they will ask.  Just offer them the best massage session you can.  Listen to them.  Listen to their pain.  Listen to their fear.  Listening may be the best healer.
  4. Be in constant contact with the client at all times.  What may have previously felt fine to them, may not now.  Ask them what they want - more pressure, less pressure or just a certain body part.  They may not want some areas touched.  Their skin may be more sensitive when going through chemotherapy or radiation.
Books:
Medicine Hands : Massage Therapy for People With Cancer by Gayle MacDonald
 

Web references:
Medical information:
About.com - Cancer
Breast Cancer - Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Breast Massage
Breast Health by Massagetherapist.com
 
Bodymechanics school of massage - Step by step breast massage

Alternative approaches to cancer:
Health World Cancer Center
Gerson Institute- Diet, Nutritional approach to cancer developed by Max Gerson.
Ralph Moss on Cancer - Author of books on cancer :  Cancer TherapyQuestioning ChemotherapyThe Cancer Industry
OncoLink  - University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center

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