Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Oncology (Cancer) Massage - Part 1: Contraindicated or Not?

Jun 10, 2011 12:04PM ● By By: Jenifer Funk, BME, LMT, NMT, CCMT, NCTMB

How many massage therapists out there have had a long-time client who one day came to them with the devastating news that they just received a diagnosis of cancer? Chances are, for the massage therapist there was an immediate flash-back to massage school where it was taught that massage therapy was contraindicated for clients with cancer. However, your client is so persistent and desperate for massage during or after their cancer treatments that many therapists may think, “As long as I’m careful, what can it hurt?”

What precipitated the writing of this article was a conversation that came up while I was receiving a massage from a licensed massage therapist at a local massage chain known for its very high volume of clients. This therapist had graduated from massage school a few years ago and I had been one of her instructors. Knowing I am an oncology massage therapy practitioner, she opened up that she has a number of oncology clients at this establishment, mainly breast cancer survivors, and while working on one of her clients was afraid she had “knocked the client’s port loose” in the course of the treatment. The massage I was receiving suddenly took on an ominous feel as I started mentally considering all of the ramifications of massage therapists working outside of their scope of practice on clients living with cancer! After questioning her, I found that she had no clue that a port is a device implanted under the skin (subcutaneous) that has a soft, slim catheter tube that goes through the vein all the way to the heart! Massage therapy is contraindicated around the site of any ports, IVs, drains, areas of recent surgery, and areas undergoing radiation therapy. There can also be involvement with the client’s bones (cancer-related bone loss) and possibly toxic agents which can affect the massage therapist as well depending on how long it has been since a client’s last chemotherapy infusion.

The bottom line is that it is NOT safe for clients who have or have had cancer to receive a massage from a massage therapist not specifically trained in Oncology Massage Therapy. Not only is it unethical but it is also illegal* in the state of Florida for massage therapists to treat these clients, or other special clients, without appropriate education and skill. Please take the training necessary to safely work on “special populations” clients. Not only will your clients appreciate it but you will have a much safer, more fulfilling massage therapy practice.

Jenifer Funk, BME, LMT, NMT, CCMT, NCTMB, is an Oncology Massage Therapy Practitioner and Instructor at her practice, Abundant Life Massage Inc., at 665 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Sarasota. You may reach her via email at: [email protected] or by phone: 941-356-0587.
*F.A.C. 64B7-30.001 Misconduct and Negligence in the Practice of Massage Therapy, Section 1 and F.S. Chapter 480.046 Grounds for Disciplinary Action by the Board, Section 1, Subsections H, I, and J

In an oncology massage therapy practice, not only is the client intake form utilized much more comprehensive than a regular client intake form, but the therapist needs to know what to do with the information received from the client. In addition, there should be ongoing communications with the client’s oncologist(s) and/or reconstructive surgeon.
Natural Awakenings of Sarasota July 2020 Digital Edition


Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression