Cancer Massage

Traditionally it's been thought that cancer patients should not have massages. But some in the medical field are challenging that thought, in particular for breast cancer patients. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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As a massage therapist, Karen Craft was trained that massage was not acceptable for cancer patients. About five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"And so I did not try to have massage during my treatment but as soon as it was over I tried finding someone who would work with me and it was really hard to find someone who would work with a cancer patient. So that sort of became a mission for me to change that mindset and that training."

Craft says massage helps range of motion which is an issue for breast cancer patients who have had surgery.

"There's some issue about the way that your arm is placed during the surgery, when you wake up it's very difficult to move it away from your side. The range of motion is probably about five or ten degrees and it takes a long time, six months to a year, to get the range of motion back, so it's very painful to move that arm."

Craft is an instructor at the Houston Community College massage therapy school where she says the continuing education courses have been turning more and more toward the medical benefits of massage. Craft says so far research has been limited to small groups.

"And what they found in every one of them was that it decreased anxiety, decreased depression, improbed mood and also, and important thing I think for cancer patients it improves body image."

Craft expects more research in the future to provide answers. Baylor Breast Center Nurse Practioner Mari Rude estimates that about five percent of her patients use massage as a part of their care.

"I look at massage therapy as a kind of complementary care, we use the terms alternative or complementary and I think the way we look at it is it kind of complements or supports general medical care."

Massage therapists have to understand the treatments cancer patients are going through and how the body is affected.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Houston is holding a "Massage for the Cure" event with Massage Envy clinics on Monday, September 10th. This is the first year the event is being held in Houston. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

To get a free 1-hour massage session, and also help Susan G. Komen for the Cure Houston Affiliate, call 1-866-553-3689 beginning at 8 AM, September 3, and be connected with the most conveniently-located Massage Envy clinic, or obtain the address and phone number of all Houston-area clinics at

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