by Patricia Kirby
We offer a list and description of hospitals and treatment programs that incorporate massage as a standard part of their treatment options plans for cancer patients. Simply click on the name of the hospital to read a short description of their treatment program that follows below.
If you know of other hospitals that also offer massage to their patients please email us the name of the hospital and who to contact at the hospital.
St. Mary's Mercy Medical Center, Grand Rapids, Michigan
St. Mary's Mercy Medical Center
Massage Reduces anxiety levels, relieves insomnia, eliminates nausea, eases depression, manages pain, and reduces the need for medication, according to Beth Cosmos, coordinator for massage therapy. "[Massage] quiets anxiousness, and then people can clear out emotionally and mentally. They look forward to massage because they feel it mentally, emotionally, spiritually," she said.
Cosmos was given the task of making initial presentations to doctors and staff, and then worked with doctors on a case-by-case basis until everyone was comfortable with what a massage program could offer. The hospital's medical staff was taught how to assess which patients would benefit most from massage, and now both physicians and nurses make referrals. Cosmos also teaches basic massage techniques to hospital staff and patients' families, and oversees an intern program that trains massage students.
Stanford University Hospital
Six therapists work as hourly employees, offering Swedish massage, craniosacral therapy, gentle stretching, Trager® work, Reiki, Feldenkrais®, and deep-tissue work, when appropriate. "We want to get people in touch with their bodies in a positive way. For some people this is the first time they've felt good in their bodies in years," said Lee Daniel Erman, a massage therapist at the hospital.
Referrals are made by doctors, nurses and patients themselves. Erman noted, "We want to work compatibly and cooperatively with the standard conventional care they are getting."
Massage results in relaxation, nausea, relief, increased flexibility, reduction in swelling, a softening of scar tissue and positive body-awareness, according to Erman.
"A bone-marrow-transplant patient said that for six months he had lost all sense of and desire for food, exercise, and sex, [and that] massage was the only enjoyable bodily sensation he experienced," Erman said.
Cancer patients also receive somatic education from massage therapists, including observing body sensations, noticing where they feel tenseness and tightness, and learning to relax and breathe. Erman said that sometimes simply teaching body awareness can facilitate healing.
Outpatient massage for cancer survivors is offered through the hospital's Complementary Medicine Clinic, which has two massage therapists on staff. Massage at the clinic is often deeper and more focused, Erman said, because patients are in less serious condition than those in the hospital.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Massage therapy was first brought to the center three years ago after a patient requested it. It has since become a standard part of the rehabilitation program. Two certified massage therapists, who are also physical technicians, use myofascial release, Swedish techniques, strain-counterstrain, acupressure, neuro-muscular release and trigger-point therapy. Patients receiving massage report decreased pain, an increase in range of motion, and a decrease in nausea and headaches. Patients are referred for massage by their physicians, or they self-refer.
The massage therapists are sometimes an early warning system for potential problems, according to Karen Gilbert, director of oncology rehabilitation, as therapists occasionally find lumps that have not shown up on mechanical scans.
The Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Center, Morton Plant Mease Health Care
The two massage therapists, both full-time employees, use a technique called combined decongestive therapy to help drain the excess fluid. Massage therapist Mark Steward said that when the swelling is decreased, the incidence of recurrent infection goes down, pain decreases, and the areas are usually restored to normal healthy functioning.
"At first all our patients had extreme swelling," Stewart said. "Now we are getting people right after swelling starts, right after surgery. The sooner they get massage, the less swelling they develop."
Shadyside Hospital's Center for Complementary Medicine
Massage has been part of the center's program for two years, and is utilized for patient comfort and pain relief, to treat insomnia, and as an immune system boost, according to massage therapist Tamara Luffy.
"Massage is like a medication - it helps [patients] get to that healing place where their body needs to be to start to work on itself," she said.
Two massage therapists work on contract, offering reflexology, craniosacral therapy, manual lymph drainage, shiatsu and deep-tissue work. Periodically the hospital offers month-long massage classes to educate hospital staff and the public about the benefits of massage and how it affects the body.
Midwestern Regional Medical Center
Massage has been offered here since 1997. Whoever needs or wants massage, providing it isn't contraindicated, is given it. "We have a standing order from the doctors," said Maravilla, adding that massage is used to ease nausea, decrease pain, relieve insomnia, and restore range of motion in patients who have had surgery.
Massage therapist Martin Farber works on contract, offering a blend of Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, and myofascial techniques in sessions tailored to patient needs. He goes on "comfort rounds" with doctors twice a week, assessing patients' comfort levels and seeing who massage might benefit.
In addition to giving massage to patients, Farber also offers a twice-monthly clinic for the staff to receive massage, and leads weekly workshops on breathing for vitality, self-massage, and basic massage techniques for patients, their families and the public.
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Massage is considered a standard part of hands-on nursing care at the center, and has been offered since 1989 to cancer patients of all ages. Patients are referred by medical staff, or they self-refer.
Massage therapists and nurse Briane Pinkson works primarily on the oncology unit, although she is available to other wards as well. She uses a blend of bodywork types including Swedish/Esalen massage, shiatsu, Reiki, Trager work, Therapeutic Touch, trigger-point therapy, reflexology and Healing Touch.
Benefits that patients receive from massage include lessened nausea, pain relief, a decreased feeling of isolation, relief from insomnia, and an overall sense of peacefulness, Pinkson said. She has heard rave reviews from parents of young children, who ask her, "When are you coming back?" It's the only thing they look forward to."
Summit Medical Center
Patients are referred to Battagin by physicians, nurses, pastoral caregivers or family members, or they self-refer. For people who can't afford to pay the donation that is requested for a massage, there is a scholarship fund set up by the Summit Medical Center Foundation, so no one is refused service.
Battagin finds there is always something she can do to help. "My role as massage therapist allows me to spend some time with patients. It is not one more invasive procedure or one more person rushing in and out of the room. Through massage I can truly present in an informed and caring touch.," she said.
The gentle Swedish massage she uses helps patients relax, lowers their need for pain medication, and relieves nausea and insomnia, Battagin said.
But sometimes the benefits of massage can't be measured Battagin added. "In a hospital there can be numerous mechanical procedures. This is different. For some patients it's a chance to re-connect with their own deeper sense of well-being. They feel cared about and held."
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