Massage for cancer patients: Benefits & precautions for oncology massage

Heather Campbell
 min read

Massage for cancer patients is not always recognized for the benefits it can give in times of extreme stress and pain.

Massage for cancer patients: Benefits & precautions for oncology massageMassage and cancer can now coexist since massage soothes pain in a cancer patient and promotes healing.

The therapeutic virtues of massage are not limited to anti-cellulite massage and lymphatic drainage, but also brings total well-being and even tackles serious diseases such as cancer.

Cancer has more than an impact on us than just the cancer itself, and it is essential to tackle these as well as the root cause.

As a whole, massage alone cannot cure cancer, even though it has been scientifically proven that its benefits act on the patient’s health. It will however help considerably with nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression, therefore reducing some of the symptoms.

Scroll down to learn more about the benefits of oncology massage and which precautions to take.

Massage for cancer patients: Are massages and cancer compatible?

Massage therapy is not meant as to help treat cancer itself.

However, a skilled masseur who has mastered the appropriate massage techniques can help considerably.

Cancer patients are often afraid of getting a massage, either because of fear of a possible contraindication or because they are confused about the results of the massage on healing.

Related post: Massage for healing: Why do massages heal the human body?

It is important to know that massage can be the source of pain relief, allowing the patient to better tolerate cancer symptoms and increase pain thresholds.

A collaboration between a physician and a massage therapist is a good way to achieve better results that are both reassuring for the patient and effective in the fight against the disease.

Massage and cancer are therefore a good match as long as it is under the supervision of a doctor.

Importance of the medical questionnaire

Doctors are rarely specialists in massage therapy and may have little knowledge of the benefits of this practice physically and mentally.

Therefore, it is up to the therapist to make his or her own diagnosis before taking the doctor’s advice.

Once the massage is authorized by the physician, the patient may have to fill in a medical questionnaire about treatment, as well as side effects and contraindications.

This is an essential precaution. The knowledge of the type of cancer, its evolution in the body, the affected areas, and the different symptoms allow the therapist to adjust the massage sessions accordingly.

For example, according to the physical state of the patient, the pressure of the touch will be vary in each zone.

The choice between local and regional pressure or circulatory massage of a region will be decided from the answers given.

Benefits of oncology massage

Massage has undeniable virtues.

  • Reduces the level of cortisol (stress hormone) to help the patient feel better
  • Reduces muscle tension in certain muscles whose function may be reduced following surgery
  • Brings relaxation and stress relief and influences the healing and stabilization of the disease
  • Reduces edema and muscle stiffness and provides better mobility
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Acts on the emotional and psychological state of the patient by reducing tension, anxiety and fighting against depression
  • Relieves some physical pain
  • Gives the patient confidence by positively influencing their mood
  • Stimulates immune defense and helps fight the development of cancer cells
  • Reinforces the effects of medications


The idea that massage contributes to the rapid development of cancer cells has some truth, but only if certain conditions are not met.

For massage to be beneficial in cancer treatment, only a professional therapist must be consulted.

The type and techniques of massage applied will be adapted to the type of cancer, to treatment and especially to the severity and evolution of the disease.

Similarly, the therapist must be able to precisely locate the parts of the body to be massaged.

Indeed, if a complete massage is appropriate for certain types of cancer such as leukemia, it can be harmful for other forms such as breast cancer.

In addition, it is imperative to ask the doctor’s advice and obtain his authorization. This precaution will avoid any risk of incompatibility between treatment and massage.

The therapist’s action must be complementary to that of the treating physician. Therefore, you must always take into account his instructions.

In addition, the therapist should avoid applying local or regional pressure to areas where a fairly superficial cancerous location is identified, and that can be felt.

There are also secondary locations that the therapist should be aware of, and this with the physician’s help.

These are also areas where massage is not recommended.

Similarly, pressure on enlarged nodules should be avoided, as these may hide viral or bacterial infections.

On the other hand, you should also avoid massaging an area that has undergone surgery as well, as the lower limbs, to prevent clots

Only the treating physician will be able to specify the moment when a massage of the lower limbs can be performed safely.

A patient undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy will also not be able to receive a massage in case of viral or bacterial infections.

Finally, the therapist must be very careful with his or her movements in order to avoid fracturing the bones, as malignant bone tumors tend to weaken them.

Likewise, he or she should use the whole hand and all fingers to perform the massage and therefore avoid percussion or deep friction techniques using only the thumb or finger.

Massage for cancer patients: Conclusion

While it must be clear that massage is not a cure for cancer, it is also pertinent to point out that symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and depression are all debilitating and have a direct impact on the patient’s recovery.

This means that any efforts to handle these naturally will be beneficial.

It is vital to consult with both your oncologist and a professional masseur to ensure that the treatments compliment each other, and to determine which areas may be massaged or not.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More