Is Massage Safe for Breast Cancer Patients?

Last Modified: February 23, 2003

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Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I have breast cancer and I would like to know if I could have reflexology and or massages done. I have been told not to do massages and I was wondering if that is true? Can you please tell me if this is true?  


Lora Packel MS, PT, Coordinator of Cancer Therapy Services for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Massage can help relieve pain, help with relaxation and decrease anxiety and stress. However, when diagnosed with cancer, you need to be more careful when choosing your massage therapist. You should look for a therapist who has experience working with people with cancer. In addition, their state association should certify them, although not all states have a governing body. Finally, they should be aware of the precautions when working with a person who has cancer. Some of these precautions are:

  1. No massage directly over the tumor
  2. No deep massage if your platelets are low (thrombocytopenia)
  3. No massage with oils or lotions if you are undergoing radiation therapy
  4. Good handwashing techniques if you are at risk for infection
  5. Massage for lymphedema should be practiced by someone who has >100 hours of training specifically in lymphedema

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