I have just returned from certification training in full chest and breast massage on the west coast and the timing was interesting as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Although this work is not specific to breast cancer patients or breast cancer survivors, there are a number of physical and psychological benefits to those either facing this disease, going through it and recovering from it. Some of which I have discussed here.
During our training, we were fortunate to have among us cancer patients and survivors, including women who have undergone a partial lumpectomy, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, enhancement and breast reduction.
If anyone needs and deserves the healing, caring touch of massage, it is women living with breast cancer, whether before, during or post-treatment. Massage and touch at any stage of breast cancer will take a woman to another place than her disease. Massage can assist her throughout her entire journey, from diagnosis to recovery. It can be difficult for the patient to deal with family issues, body image, finances, friends and do-gooders.
Massage can help.
When asked what massage does for them, clients have replied with comments such as:
Massage therapy has been shown to offer a number of benefits for breast cancer patients. Performed by a skilled and qualified therapist, the immediate benefits of massage therapy include reduced stress and anxiety. Long-term massage effects include reduced depression and hostility and increased serotonin values, .
Massage can also enhance one's feeling of well-being. It can stimulate the nerve endings in the skin, release endorphins (the feel good hormone) and inhibit the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, the Touch Research Institute found that massage therapy reduced anxiety and depression. It also improved immune function, including increased NK cell number in breast cancer patients. Additionally, breast cancer patients have improved immune functions following massage therapy.
Another study* found that therapeutic massage reduced cancer pain perception by an average of 60 percent, decreased anxiety by 24 percent and enhanced relaxation by 58 percent. A Touch Research Institute study involving 20 children with leukemia found that daily massages by their parents increased the children's white blood cell and neutrophil counts (neutrophils form a primary defense against bacterial infection).
Why Mastectomy Massage?
The benefits of mastectomy massage are numerous. The therapist's intentions and the quality of touch provided can make a world of difference to a client who has recently experienced a variety of invasive and painful tests and procedures. The intention is not to "fix" the client, but to provide love, nurturing, relaxation and quality of life.
Massage can relieve post-operative pain and edema, and promote the removal of toxins as it assists in the flow of lymph, blood and oxygen. Over time, clients will experience increased range of motion, reduced scar tissue, restored feeling and sensation by stimulating nerve endings, an improved body image and may become more aware and reconnected to themselves. Aside from massage generally promoting better health and overall well-being, it just feels good!
Can Massage Spread Cancer?
The concern that increasing circulation via massage will cause the spread of cancer is unfounded. Cancer can spread with little or no activity, such as sleeping, breathing, eating, walking, etc. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that gentle, light or compassionate touch can be administered safely and effectively, provided that no direct pressure or massage is applied to the traumatized area affected by disease.
Light massage may actually have a protective effect, as it keeps the blood and lymph circulating. Touch may help prevent tumor proliferation, as it reduces the body's levels of glucocorticoids and cortisol & hormonal measurements of the body's stress levels. Conversely, high levels of these substances in the body have been linked to tumor growth.
Massage therapy does not treat cancer. But it can have a profound impact on a patient's well being. If you are facing breast cancer, talk to your doctor about seeking massage therapy and then book an appointment to begin your journey of healing and self care.
- with aloha
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.