Breast Cancer and Massage – why you should be informed By Amy Tyler

For some reason everything is a shade of pink… Oh that’s right, it’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

 

With 20,640 estimated people diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia this year[1], I thought it was a great time to talk about the importance of complementary health care providers understanding how cancer affects the body and more importantly how cancer treatments affect the body. Most people get side effects from cancer treatment in the short term but many aren’t aware that cancer treatment can also have long term effects.

 

With a 92% survival rate of at least 5 years for people diagnosed with breast cancer[2]; the chances are high that you will get someone walk into your clinic who has had a diagnosis.

 

There are many considerations to make when working with someone who has had a cancer diagnosis, even if it was many years ago. Understanding the long term effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are vital, as they can affect the body beyond when they are administered. Surgery can also have a lasting impact if the scar tissue causes issues for the patient.

 

For manual therapists who wish to work with these clients, hands on treatment will change throughout the stages of cancer treatment, in survivorship and during palliation. 

 

During treatment a vigorous and inflammatory style massage is not what the client needs – even years down the track, and regardless of their wellness level e.g., running marathons, traveling the world and living a normal life. 

 

The risk of lymphoedema especially after breast cancer treatment is high for at least the first two years post treatment and although it does reduce after that, it is still a risk factor. So appropriately massaging the quadrant where lymph nodes have been treated is essential for the rest of the client’s life. Even a sports massage needs to be adapted to suit the client’s needs.

 

People who have had a breast cancer diagnosis may get cording (axillary web syndrome) from their lymph node dissection, lymphoedema post-surgery or radiation therapy, osteoporosis from chemotherapy and may have numb or hypersensitive scars from surgery that restrict range of motion in local joints or even create issues further afield. An informed practitioner will be able to adapt their treatment to work effectively for all these conditions and the patient will benefit long term from their skill set.

 

This is why I have launched the Institute Of Oncology Massage. Training for therapists is important so that a treatment plan that is effective for the individual can be devised. 

 

Gone are the years where we were taught not to work on anyone who had cancer, however that doesn’t mean we should work on them without the knowledge of what their bodies have been through and the side effects they are experiencing. The benefits of massage can be huge if performed by an informed therapist.

 

[1] Breast Cancer Trials

[2] National Breast Cancer Foundation

 

Gone are the years where we were taught not to work on anyone who had cancer, however that doesn’t mean we should work on them without the knowledge of what their bodies have been through and the side effects they are experiencing. The benefits of massage can be huge if performed by an informed therapist.

 

Abstract

Amy Tyler is the founder of the boutique training organisation Institute of Oncology Massage and is a remedial massage therapist who specialises in working with people who have had a cancer diagnosis. She creates connection for the mind and body through integrating Oncology, Scar and Lymphoedema Massage to bring completely new levels of freedom and confidence to a patients life. With 20+ years experience and training she has become known in the industry for her unique skill set and has trained many other therapists to specialise in oncology massage. She runs her private clinic in Waitara in the north of Sydney, trains massage therapists and myotherapist in oncology massage and was awarded the ATMS Natural Medicine Awards Practitioner of the Year 2020.

 

Training: www.instituteofoncologymassage.com.au

Clinic: www.therapeuticmassage.com.au

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