This long held myth is tenacious! Many people present for a massage after receiving a cancer diagnosis with the question “Can massage contribute to the spread of cancer?”
The short answer is that massage is no more a concern than is exercise contributing to the spread of cancer. Exercise is routinely recommended by oncologists to help manage fatigue, anxiety and the physical discomforts of cancer treatment. If a brisk walk, swim or bike ride is not considered a risk factor for metastasis then neither is massage.
The rationale for this short answer is that the spread of cancer is not simply a mechanical process. The complexity of metastasis requires a variety of factors to be present at the same time. First, cancer cells must shed from the original tumour before being transported through the blood stream or lymphatic system. In order for the cancer cells to create a secondary tumour they must plant in tissues that can support their growth.
Reasoning, not research, is behind the belief that massage therapy does not contribute to the spread of cancer. What is known is that massage is helpful in managing pain, anxiety, treating surgical scars and promoting better sleep – all situations that commonly arise during cancer treatments.
To ensure a treatment that is both safe and effective, look for a massage therapist trained in oncology massage.