In times of physical and emotional need, massage therapy, for many cancer patients, is a breath of fresh air. With special training through the Peregrine Institute in Santa Fe, N.M., licensed massage therapist and Zeel Expert Jacqueline George-Algaier would know; many of her clients have special oncology needs as well.
What may be less obvious to some is that those in search of oncology-specific bodywork can't just make an appointment at the nearest spa. "Massage is massage is massage is massage, right? Well, not exactly," says Jacqueline. "For persons living with cancer, massage is still a viable option for relaxation, decreasing anxiety and reducing pain and nausea, as well as many other potential benefits. But massage for people living with cancer is different."
Jacqueline goes on to explain what you need to know.
- Massage for people receiving radiation or chemotherapy requires a therapist who has the knowledge and ability to assess the appropriateness of the level of pressure, contraindications, medication and therapy side effects through a thorough medical assessment.
- Therapists must know how to massage clients at risk for lymphedema (often a side effect of surgical node dissection or radiation to nodes in a given area).
- Persons who have blood cancers are also in need of a therapist able to assess the appropriateness of massage when blood counts are low to determine if there is a risk of infection or possible bleeding.
- Oncology massage therapists must be mindful of positioning when medical appliances are being used, such as a port, IV, catheter or ostomy bags.
As Jacqueline assures, "Utilizing a massage therapist who has extensive knowledge and education in oncology massage will add to the confidence and comfort of the client." That's because, not only will a massage therapist who has studied bodywork for oncology have hands-on training with chemotherapy and radiation patients themselves, but they'll also have completed coursework in cancer massage and manual lymph drainage.
With the right practitioner, bodywork can offer a sense of relief that may otherwise be difficult to find. "Massage is a wonderful respite from cancer treatments, invasive procedures and the side effects of medicine," Jacqueline adds. "Clients often remark that massage gives them the opportunity to be pain-free, worry-free and experience rest for the first time in many days, weeks or months."