Massage is one of the oldest therapies in existence. It is now often offered as part of cancer care in hospital wards, hospices and some GP surgeries.
Massage is a form of structured or therapeutic touch which can be used to relax, to relieve muscle pain and tension, and to bring comfort through contact with another human being. There are many different types of massage therapy. Some types are soft and gentle; other types are more vigorous and possibly uncomfortable.
Massage can help to reduce feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and despair. Some people worry that massage could cause spread of cancer cells, but research has shown that it is safe for people with cancer to have massage. However, it is important that the massage therapist avoids any area affected by the cancer.
Relatives or friends can be taught to massage the person who is ill, which can reduce anxiety and bring comfort to both people. Massage can be a form of communication between the massager and the patient, as well as relieving pain and muscle tension. As long as you are careful to avoid wounds or scars, vein thromboses (blood clots) and areas of tenderness, and to be particularly gentle if the cancer has spread to the bones, massage for people with cancer is very relaxing.
You can get more information about massage and finding a trained massage therapist from the General Council for Massage Therapy.