From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice” (“How can I prepare to work with a person with cancer or a history of cancer?”), by Tracy Walton, in the July/August 2009 issue. Article summary: An understanding of current information, good clinical reasoning and sound judgment are needed to work safely and well with people who have cancer or a history of cancer.

by Tracy Walton

Massage therapists wanting to learn more about massage and cancer can turn to many resources. Most of them are freely available online, or available at reasonable cost.

• The American Cancer Society ( and the National Cancer Institute ( are excellent cancer resources.

• There are many articles on cancer treatment and massage, including massage guidelines for radiation therapy and chemotherapy. I maintain a current bibliography of articles about massage and cancer on my Web site (

• The Society for Oncology Massage ( is a national organization devoted to the safe, effective and compassionate massage practice with people with cancer and cancer histories. It supports massage therapists, patients and other health-care providers. Among other things, the society offers a list of recognized oncology massage instructors, an oncology massage therapist locator service and standards of massage practice.

• While some therapists can work safely by reading, researching and working cautiously, most of us need instruction. Whether it is part of a basic massage program or a professional continuing education, training gives us time to ask questions, discuss clinical scenarios and practice interviewing and hands-on skills in a supervised setting. Oncology massage training programs are expanding, ranging from weekend workshops to ongoing certificate programs, and recognized trainings are listed on the Society for Oncology Massage’s Web site.

• Interest in massage therapy is increasing, and the role of massage in cancer care is taking shape. Armed with information and skills, we have much to offer our clients with cancer and cancer histories.

• MacDonald G. Medicine hands: massage therapy for people with cancer (2nd ed). Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press 2007.

• Curties D. Massage therapy and cancer. Moncton, New Brunswick: Curties-Overzet Publications, Inc. 1999.

• Walton T. Cancer and massage: essential contraindications. Massage Therapy Journal Summer 2006;45(2):119-135.

• MacDonald G. Bodywork for cancer patients: the need for a less-demanding approach. Massage & Bodywork Jun/Jul 2005:16-26.

• MacDonald G. Cancer, radiation & massage: the benefits and cautions. Massage & Bodywork Aug/Sept 2001:16-32.

• Curties D. Cancer therapies. Massage Therapy Journal Winter

• MacDonald G. Easing the chemotherapy experience with massage. Massage Magazine Mar/Apr 2000;(84):985-91.

• Walton T. Cancer and massage: contraindications and cancer treatment. Massage Therapy Journal Fall 2006;45(3):119-135.