Having Massages When Going Through Chemotherapy

Some people find that undergoing massage during chemotherapy treatment helps them relax and feel good during an uneasy time. Let's explore the benefits of massage and what precautions you should discuss with your healthcare provider before undergoing this soothing practice.

foot massage
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Massage therapy can be a great way to relax and distract oneself from the stresses of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can certainly heighten anxiety, and this can be a great way to relieve it. In fact, many healthcare providers recommend massage as a form of complementary medicine to help people with cancer relax, reduce anxiety, combat nausea, and control pain. It's important to understand though that massage therapy is not a form of cancer treatment and will not prevent cancer from spreading or slow its growth.


Massages during cancer treatment may not be for everyone. Be sure to get your healthcare provider's approval before having a massage. While a massage may seem harmless, it can be unsafe under certain circumstances. 

For example, since chemotherapy can compromise your immune system, you are more vulnerable to infection. If you do undergo a massage, ensure that your massage therapist is not ill or suffering from a contagious ailment. It's also important that the therapist maintains a hygienic, clean environment and sanitize the massage table after each client. Also, if you have any sores, acne, or other skin eruptions, ask your therapist to avoid touching them during the massage — this is to avoid pain and infection. 

It's also important to note that chemotherapy may increase your risk of bruising, and a massage a few days following the chemo during the nadir period could worsen this effect.

Finally, if you have any bone metastasis, massage isn't recommended for that area of your body as fractures may occur.

What to Do If You Want a Massage During Chemotherapy

If your healthcare provider allows you to have a massage, ask him to refer you to a licensed massage therapist (LMT) — even better if your massage therapist has experience working with clients undergoing cancer treatment. In addition, many cancer treatment centers offer massage therapy and other complementary therapies and may have an LMT on staff.

2 Sources
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  1. Breastcancer.org. Massage.

  2. Toth M, Marcantonio ER, Davis RB, Walton T, Kahn JR, Phillips RS. Massage therapy for patients with metastatic cancer: a pilot randomized controlled trialJ Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(7):650–656. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0466

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.