Massage for People with Cancer

Benefits of Massage For People Living with Cancer

Research has indicated that massage is beneficial for people with cancer in some of the following ways. Cancer patients have reported one or several of these benefits:

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce nausea
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Promote sleep

Massage assists the patient in living life more fully and comfortably as s/he deals with the cancer and its treatments.  When used in a complementary manner, alongside the mainstream medical treatments, it can lessen the side effects of the treatments.

When is Massage Provided?

Cancer patients experience many different procedures to combat the cancer in their bodies.  The most common are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  The treatment regimen can vary widely, and each patient reacts differently to the procedures prescribed.

In many cases, massage is most beneficial just prior to treatment, but this depends on the patient’s needs, his/her reaction to the regimen, and the purpose of the massage.  The patient and massage therapist decide together the best time to schedule a massage.  The timing is selected to provide the maximum benefit to the patient.

Assessment for Massage

At the patient’s first appointment, the massage therapist will obtain health information and review cancer treatment history.  In some cases, additional information about the patient’s particular condition may be required from the oncologist.  The massage therapist will obtain a release to speak with the doctor.

With complete information about the patient’s condition, the massage therapist will be able to determine the level of massage that is safe and appropriate.

Depending on the patient’s condition, the massage may vary from a full Swedish massage to a very gentle, soothing touch.  The massage will be modified as needed for the patient’s specific situation to prevent any further strain on his/her systems.


 Reiki is an ancient Japanese method of energy healing that involves light or no touch by the practitioner.  Reiki can reduce pain, mental and emotional stress, and foster a feeling of serenity.  This method of healing can be provided as a session by itself, or be included as part of a massage session.  This is a good option if the patient’s condition is too fragile for even a very light massage.

See the Reiki page for more information about this modality.

Massage for Others

 A cancer diagnosis affects all family members and close friends.  The caregiver(s) expend much energy in providing for the needs of the patient, while maintaining regular routines and adding new responsibilities.

Massage can offer relief from the additional stresses that are a result of caring for a loved one.  Some of the benefits of massage for the caregiver are:

  • Promotes relaxation
  • Reduces stress
  • Promotes deeper breathing
  • Enhances sense of well-being
  • Connects mind, body and spirit