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Massage/lymphoma and massage therapy, contraindications


Kenny Lyons wrote at 2009-12-22 03:30:15
I know this is an old question, and with all due respect to the previous answer, it is no longer the correct answer. Much scientific research has been done to show that massage does not spread cancer. "Massage therapy is not contraindicated in cancer patients, massaging a tumor is, but there is a great deal more to a person than the tumor."

Bernie Siegel, MD  

Massageteacher1 wrote at 2011-10-20 16:43:53
This is not true. Massage is not contraindicated for cancer, regardless of the length of time. The only way massage can spread disease is if the therapist is infectious. Massage does not cause metastasis of cancer.

Healing Touch wrote at 2013-02-09 14:58:46
Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or too much pressure on the affected area and underlying organs.

Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs and nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body's immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally when we move: muscles contract and compress lymph vessels to force the movement of lymph.

Cancer may spread (metastasise) into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph - from massage or other movement - does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops and spreads because of changes to a cell's DNA (genetic mutations) and other processes in the body.

Research into massage for people with cancer

Several clinical studies show that massage can reduce symptoms such as stress, nausea, pain, fatigue and depression.

A systematic review1 of the studies on aromatherapy and massage for relieving symptoms in people with cancer looked at 10 studies including eight randomised controlled trials. It found that massage consistently reduced anxiety and depression. Massage also helped lower nausea and pain but not as consistently.

A large American study2 published in 2004 looked at the effects of massage therapy on almost 1,300 people with cancer over three years. People in hospital had a 20-minute massage, and people treated as outpatients had a 60-minute session. The study found that overall, massage therapy reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The benefits lasted longer in the patients who had the 60-minute session.

Another American study3 of 39 people looked at the safety and effectiveness of massage in reducing stress hormone levels in patients with blood cancer. It randomised people to receive aromatherapy, massage or rest. The study concluded that massage significantly reduced the stress hormone.

Claire wrote at 2013-06-28 10:28:56
Hi Evelyn, as a Palliative Care Therapist, the type of massage and pressure you use and the type of cancer the person has, all dictate whether they can have massage.  Most cancer clients can have massage and current research does NOT prove that massage causes spread of cancer.  The pressure and duration of massage matter the most.  If you want to deal with cancer clients, I would suggest going on a palliative care course for complementary therapists.


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I can answer questions about exercise rehab, remedial (therapeutic/deep tissue) and general relaxation massage therapy, sports related massage therapy and any questions about massage in general.


I'm a registered massage therapist and have been for a few years now, I'm also an active athlete and know how to tie health and massage together. I have training in relaxation massage, remedial massage, pre and post event sports massage, problems in the lower legs of athletes, some thai massage, soft tissue manipulation, a small amount of pregnancy massage, exercise rehab and kinesiology, anything about the human body and how it operates, and I even have a small background in myofascial release. Currently I am in the process of becoming a certified personal trainer as well.

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Two years of massage school as well as various seminars and educational lectures and working out in the real world and dealing with situations everyday.

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