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Benefits of Oncology Massage for breast cancer patients

By Amy Tyler
from Institute of Oncology Massage

Oncology Massage is still a well-kept secret that is not just beneficial during the cancer treatment phase; it can also be utilised for rehabilitation post treatment and during survivorship and palliation.

October has rolled around again and if you weren’t in the know, all the pink will probably give you a hint – it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One in seven women and one in 600 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime[1]. With such a high number of patients it is crucial that quality of life during and post treatment should be considered as part of the long term care plan. Side effects of cancer and its treatments are pretty common and breast cancer patients get some pretty distinct side effects.

With surgery comes scarring and the potential for a scar to form restrictions, tension, be painful or numb. Breast scars can also adhere to the chest wall causing discomfort. Gentle scar massage can be beneficial in scar healing and can be performed years down the track with great benefits. Radiation fibrosis can also create similar issues and appropriate massage can improve range of motion and soften the tissue, reducing discomfort in the region.

Cording (axillary web syndrome) is a band or elastic type feeling associated with lymph node dissection that can restrict range of movement. It can be felt in the axilla (armpit), chest wall, breast or arm. It is a common complaint of many patients treated for breast cancer; oncology massage can be utilised to reduce cording and improve range of motion.

Surgical removal of lymph nodes and radiation to the region can trigger lymphedema in the arm or chest region. Vigorous and deep massage is not recommended and trained oncology massage therapists will take into consideration a client’s risk of lymphedema and tailor a massage to suit their needs. If you do have lymphedema there is no reason you can’t have an appropriate massage. Manual lymphatic drainage will help with fluid movement; however, oncology massage can help with pain and discomfort associated with lymphedema.

Chemotherapy can also cause unwanted side effects – bowel upset tends to be common during treatment and can benefit greatly from abdominal massage. Peripheral neuropathy and osteopenia can be long lasting and an informed massage therapist will adapt their massage treatment so you can continue to have massage without any concerns.

Then there are the achy joints associated with ongoing hormonal treatments. Pain reduction is one of the many benefits of oncology massage and although the pain will probably return due to the fact the medication is ongoing, the relief gained for a short period of time can be really beneficial.

As you can see, there are many different benefits to oncology massage and treatment can be adapted to whatever symptoms you are personally experiencing. Feeling a general sense of wellbeing and a calmness from massage is so appreciated by all my breast cancer patients. Why not give it a go?

[1] National Breast Cancer Foundation

More about the author

Amy Tyler
Amy Tyler
– Institute of Oncology Massage

Amy Tyler is the founder of the boutique training organisation Institute of Oncology Massage and is a remedial massage therapist who specialises in working with people who have had a cancer diagnosis. She creates connection for the mind and body through integrating Oncology, Scar and Lymphoedema Massage to bring completely new levels of freedom and confidence to a patients life. With 20+ years experience and training she has become known in the industry for her unique skill set and has trained many other therapists to specialise in oncology massage. She runs her private clinic in Waitara in the north of Sydney, trains massage therapists and myotherapist in oncology massage and was awarded the ATMS Natural Medicine Awards Practitioner of the Year 2020.