When I was in massage school 9 years ago, our instructors and textbooks wisely argued for a great deal of caution when cancer was present in a massage client, and many people with cancer were told to avoid all massage. Fear that massage could spread cancer around the body was still a strong concern. Currently, that fear is largely discounted and doctors and others working with cancer patients focus on figuring out the best ways to bring massage and people with cancer safely together.
Gayle MacDonald is a massage therapist bringing the massage and medical far worlds greatly closer with her passion for massage and deep understanding of the many needs of people with cancer. Her book Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer, is the bible for any therapist interested in oncology massage training and she also offers intensive training programs which include hospital supervision. Medicine Hands is also a superb resource for people facing cancer and their family members. Reading the book, I wanted to jump on a plane and study with her immediately. Maybe someday... but for now I plan to study with one of her former students and leader in this field on her own right, Tracy Walton, who is more conveniently for me located on the East Coast.
U.S. News and World Report writes last month about a positive study on massage with advanced cancer patients here. The outcomes find that massage did reduce pain compared with the control group in the short term. Massage (by therapists trained in oncology procedures) was compared to simple touch, which probably has wonderful benefits on its own, especially for people suffering physically and emotionally from disease. I don't know if the majority of massage schools will include oncology training soon, but if they do, I hope they strive for the quality and scientific thoroughness of Macdonald's and Walton's instruction.