Can massage help breast cancer patients?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. This staggering statistic is why exploring various methods of stress and anxiety relief for patients is critical.
Breann Davis is a massage therapist in Moab, Utah who is doing incredible work by using massage to help breast cancer patients receive the touch and relief they need. We were thrilled to get a chance to speak with Breann about her practice and learn more about what she’s doing to transform the experience of cancer patients both during and after treatment.
How is oncology massage different than regular massage?
I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by Oncology Massage before I learned about it. But the truth is that there's absolutely no reason to be intimidated! The techniques used in an Oncology Massage are the same as a 'regular' massage. An Oncology Massage is just a customized massage specifically for clients who are receiving or have received treatment(s) for cancer. Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation could have short and/or long term side effects for your clients. It's critical to educate yourself on what side effects your client might be experiencing, and adjust the massage accordingly.
Finding out what side effects your client is experiencing from their cancer treatments will be the most important thing you can do to provide a safe and beneficial massage. A few examples would be: If your client has had lymph nodes removed from the axillary region, it's best to avoid massaging that area. Or if your client has had chemotherapy, they could have neuropathy in their feet; deep tissue massage would be contraindicated. If their platelet count is low, it's critical only to use light pressure to prevent bruising.
How can cancer patients benefit from massage? What does the research say?
Massage can be used to induce a deep state of relaxation and is very helpful in reducing anxiety and stress. Going into surgery and receiving chemotherapy or radiation can be stressful for most people. Also, massage can improve overall mood and is helpful for pain control.
There was a study done by Ferrell-Torry and Glick on the effects of massage on nine hospitalized patients with cancer pain. It was reported that massage therapy reduced pain by an average of 60%, decreased anxiety by 24%, and enhanced relaxation by 58%.
What is your personal experience working with cancer patients?
I acquired my 'Massage in a Hospital Setting' certificate at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I can't emphasize enough how wonderful the program is. While I was there, I worked on patients in various areas of the hospital. I was able to work with several breast cancer patients that were recovering from surgeries and receiving chemotherapy. Massage therapy helped these patients relax and reduce the anxiety that they had before and after surgery. In my practice, I work with several clients that are managing the long term side effects of cancer treatment. Mainly neuropathy in their feet, dry skin, and occasional lymphedema. I find that extra communication is key when working with these clients.
Is there anything cancer patients should know before they book an oncology massage? What should they expect?
I would recommend finding a Massage Therapist that has an Oncology Massage certification and has experience working with oncology clients. It's important for the Therapist to become aware of what treatments you have done and are currently doing, as well as any of the side effects you are experiencing. Providing this information could prevent any discomfort and make your treatment more relaxing and enjoyable.
Where do you practice, and how can people book an appointment with you?
I have a private massage practice in Moab, Utah. I can be reached at [email protected]
Meagan, Sarah, and I also have a new Yomassage practice! Appointments can be set up on our website at yomassagemoab.com.