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Massage for cancer patients: 4 tips to find a qualified therapist

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massage therapy for cancer patient blog.JPGBy Sat Siri Sumler, massage therapist, Integrative Medicine Center

It has been known for thousands of years that massage feels good, helps relieve pain, stress and other symptoms, and is safe if given by an appropriately trained professional.

Wondering how to find a massage therapist who will take your cancer-related concerns into consideration during your massage? Here are some tips to help you find a trained massage therapist who can address your cancer and cancer treatment-related needs.

1. Consult your oncologist.

To ensure coordinated and safe care, speak with your primary oncologist before having a massage. Your doctor can address any concerns. If your doctor thinks massage can be integrated into your care plan, ask him or her to request massage services for you from MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Center through online consults.

Looking for massage therapy outside of Houston? Ask your doctor for a written order that you can give your local massage therapist.

2. Find a licensed massage therapist who specializes in working with cancer patients.
It's important to find a therapist with the appropriate education. Minimum requirements are a massage license and 24 hours of training in oncology massage, including a basic study of cancer, treatments, side effects, patient challenges, massage technique modifications, and hands-on practice.

Visit The Society for Oncology Massage's website to find oncology massage therapists who meet basic training and practice standards.

3. Ask how they'll modify massage for you.
Ask the massage therapist what modifications he or she will make for you. They may need to adapt the massage pressure, bodywork technique, or treatment position based on your cancer and cancer treatment-related side effects.

4. Note what type of questions they ask you.
A massage therapist who is trained to work with cancer patients will ask about your diagnosis, treatments, diagnostic tests, blood values, symptoms, activity level and any restrictions you may have.

Oncology massage is safe and effective at helping people feel better during challenging times. Find a qualified massage therapist, and you'll be on your way to a peaceful reprieve from the stress of cancer.

Massage is available for MD Anderson patients and their caregivers. Visit the Integrative Medicine Center website or call (713)794-4700 to learn more.

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