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Oncology Massage for Survivors: Why It’s Important Long Term

By Amy Tyler
from Institute of Oncology Massage

Often called “thrivers,” cancer survivors are individuals who have overcome their cancer diagnosis and treatment and are living beyond their illness. While surviving cancer is a significant milestone, many thrivers continue to face physical and emotional challenges long after their treatment is complete. In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of ongoing support and care for thrivers, highlighting the role of oncology massage in their long-term wellness journey.

The Unique Needs of Thrivers: Following treatment, thrivers may experience a range of physical and emotional challenges, including lingering side effects, anxiety, and fear of recurrence. These difficulties can impact their overall quality of life and well-being. For example, survivors of breast cancer may experience lymphedema, a condition characterised by swelling in the arm or chest due to lymph node removal or damage during treatment. Additionally, survivors of abdominal or pelvic cancers, such as bowel cancer or ovarian cancer may develop scar tissue in the abdominal region, causing pain, tightness and limited mobility, while survivors of head and neck cancers may experience difficulty swallowing or speaking as well as pain or discomfort when turning their head.

A Supportive and Nurturing Approach: Oncology massage offers a supportive and nurturing approach to addressing these needs, providing comfort, pain relief, and emotional support to survivors as they navigate life beyond cancer. Through gentle, focused touch, massage therapy can help lessen physical discomfort, ease muscle tension and increase range of motion. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, promoting a sense of relaxation and well-being. By addressing the unique physical and emotional needs of thrivers, oncology massage plays a crucial role in supporting their overall health and quality of life.

Promoting Healing and Well-being: In addition to addressing specific physical and emotional needs, oncology massage promotes overall healing and well-being for cancer survivors. Massage therapy stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural painkillers and elevate mood, promoting a sense of relaxation and happiness. By promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the body, massage therapy can also improve sleep quality, enhance energy levels and reduce pain.

Adapting Massage: To ensure a safe and successful experience, massage techniques must be adapted to suit the thrivers’ ongoing health concerns or limitations. For example, massage therapists may use lighter pressure and gentle, flowing strokes due to osteoporosis or to avoid exacerbating lymphedema or other circulatory issues. Massage therapists should also be aware of any surgical scars, radiation sites, or sensitive areas, adjusting their approach as needed to ensure the client’s comfort and well-being.

Empowerment and Self-Care: One of the key benefits of oncology massage for thrivers is its role in empowering them to take an active role in their own healing and self-care. By providing thrivers with skills and techniques to manage their well-being, massage therapy fosters a sense of empowerment and independence. Thrivers can incorporate massage therapy into their long-term wellness routine as a form of self-care, promoting relaxation, stress reduction, and overall wellness. Massage therapy can serve as a valuable complement to other supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, and counselling, further enhancing the client’s overall treatment experience.

The Importance of Cancer Rehabilitation: Cancer rehabilitation plays a vital role in supporting cancer survivors as they readjust to regular life after treatment. Cancer rehabilitation focuses on regaining function, reducing symptoms and improving quality of life for survivors, helping them live a life without discomfort or limitations. Through a multidisciplinary approach, cancer rehabilitation addresses a range of issues, including physical impairments, pain management, fatigue, and emotional well-being. In addition to oncology massage, cancer rehabilitation may involve, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology and psychological support, depending on the specific requirements of each survivor.

Oncology massage is an essential component of long-term care for cancer survivors, or thrivers. By addressing the unique physical, emotional, and functional needs of thrivers, oncology massage helps promote healing, well-being, and empowerment, supporting survivors as they navigate life beyond cancer. As we continue to support and care for cancer survivors, let’s recognise the importance of oncology massage and cancer rehabilitation in their ongoing journey towards health and healing.

More about the author

Amy Tyler
Amy Tyler
– Institute of Oncology Massage

Amy Tyler is an award winning 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 and at the Sydney Adventist Hospital Cancer Support Centre, and was awarded the ATMS Natural Medicine Awards “Practitioner of the Year 2020”. Amy is the founder and CEO of Institute of Oncology Massage, a Society for Oncology Massage endorsed training organisation that empowers Remedial Massage Therapists and Myotherapists to confidently and competently adapt their skills when working with anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis.