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What is Cancer Massage?

Cancer massage is a form of complementary therapy specially designed for cancer patients with the aim of relieving their physical discomfort or improving their psychological well-being. It may involve stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the muscles and soft tissues of the body, using varying intensity, direction, rate and rhythm. A massage therapist can treat your whole body, or focus on a specific part, such as your head, neck, shoulder or back.

Benefits of Cancer Massage

Cancer massage helps reduce physical, psycho-social and emotional symptoms, including:


Relieving headaches, pain, tension, treatment-induced nausea, vomiting and fatigue


Reducing stress and anxiety


Enhancing mood


Improving overall quality of life

A cancer massage therapist should have oncology massage training to work with cancer patients and survivors. The therapy is usually customised to meet the unique and changing needs of a particular individual.

Debunking Myths around Cancer Massage

  • Will it accelerate the growth and spread of tumours?

    Massage will not cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body via the lymphatic system. Having said that, it is advisable to avoid direct pressure over the tumour sites, lymph nodes as well as regions of risk.

  • Can it treat cancer?

    No evidence suggests that massage can treat cancer. However, clinical studies have shown that it can reduce cancer-related symptoms, including pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Things to Consider

During cancer massage, it is important to avoid massage to:


  • Tumour(s) or lymph node(s) (i.e. glands) affected by cancer
  • Areas being treated with radiotherapy, which are often complicated with pain and infection
  • Areas that are bruised or sensitive
  • Areas close to intravenous catheters and pain relief patches
  • Open wounds


Additionally, massage should be avoided if:


  • Cancer has spread to your bones
  • If you have a low platelet count

Your cancer massage therapist will ask you and the medical team appropriate questions in order to make safe adjustments to the massage.

Cancer Massage Techniques

  • Head, neck & shoulders
  • Hands