By Melissa Baun
I work as an oncology/mastectomy massage therapist at Cornerstone Spa and Integrative Wellness. I have the opportunity to meet people at one of, if not the most challenging time of their lives. Clients come to me at various times in their treatment seeking relief for various complaints and complications of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.I have spent the past three months following eight specific clients. This is for a research project I needed to complete for my Board Certification renewal. The majority of the diagnoses are breast cancer with bilateral mastectomy, one lumpectomy, all but one with lymph node removal. One brain cancer diagnosis with radiation and significant scar tissue. One anal cancer with radiation burn.
5 of the 8 clients heard me speak at the Cancer Fit program that Doylestown Hospital sponsors with Sabrina Willard at Cornerstone. One client was referred to me by the breast cancer nurse navigator at Doylestown Hospital and two through word of mouth.
I gave each client a brief questionnaire with the following questions:
What led you to seek oncology massage for your diagnosis?
What were your expectations from your treatment?
Are your expectations being met with your massage sessions?
Have you received any other unexpected benefits from treatment?
Is there anything that has not been beneficial from your treatment?
Pain relief was the number one reason for seeking oncology massage. The primary source of pain was secondary to scar tissue and radiation. The second most common reason was limited mobility of arm and shoulder post surgery and radiation (for mastectomy clients). Other reasons included relief from the fatigue and nausea often experienced as side effects from chemotherapy.
All expectations were based on receiving relief from the specific reason/s each client was seeking oncology massage. Each client felt that their expectations were being met with their massage sessions. An unexpected benefit that almost all clients felt they received was an emotional balancing as well as physical recovery. No one felt that there was anything that was not beneficial from their massage. I also collected photos (with client permission) of the progress of some scar tissue post surgery and radiation. This is a wonderful visual tool I use when guest speaking at various engagements.
We are at a pivotal time in the growth of Integrative Medicine and medical massage. More and more hospitals are offering Integrative Medicine services to their patients. The research I have done is on a very small and informal scale, but is of great importance in showing the need for oncology massage.
There is so much that can be offered to help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in addition to the above. Sometimes it is just calming the sympathetic nervous system by using specific strokes to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This induces pleasure sensations which become stronger than the pain sensations. Massage helps reduce stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Massage, used in conjunction with energy healing techniques is wonderful at reducing nausea secondary to chemotherapy and also offers an emotional balancing that often leads to increased energy. Lymphatic drainage is a valuable tool for relief to those suffering from lymphedema due to lymph node removal. These are just a few of the many ways massage can play an important role in your cancer treatment. With the proper research, I believe we will continue to find yet more undiscovered benefits of oncology massage and it’s role in cancer treatment.
For questions, please call The Spa at Cornerstone @ 215-918-5950
BCTMB, LMT, S4OM Preferred Provider
Integrative Wellness @ The Spa at Cornerstone
Melissa’s primary work is devoted to oncology massage, which also includes mastectomy and lumpectomy medical massage, and pain management massage.
Working in health care all her life, mostly in administration, she began to look into Integrative Medicine while her father was in treatment for cancer.
After graduation, Melissa spent 3 years working with Abington Memorial Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Department, ( Abington, PA). The past eleven years, Melissa has worked in Integrative Wellness @ the Spa at Cornerstone in Warrington, Pennsylvania.
Having lost a large number of family members and friends to various types of cancer, Melissa has made it her mission to be an advocate for integrative massage to all health care professionals. Having witnessed firsthand, on an almost daily basis how massage can offer a better quality of life to the person living with cancer, she believes that everyone going through the treatment of this disease deserves nothing less than oncology massage (along with other integrative modalities) to help them feel better…..until we have a better way of treating this disease.
Melissa has just finished studies to become a continuing education provider for oncology massage to other licensed massage therapists.
Contact Melissa at www.cornerstoneclubs.com or at 215-918-5950.
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