Massage therapy and Cancer

What is Oncology Massage?

There are a lot of questions and some myths around massage therapy and cancer. Oncology Massage is the adaptation of a remedial treatment given to an individual with cancer or a history of cancer. It is a gentle, relaxing and nurturing treatment. Oncology Massage safely addresses the needs of a cancer patient with a specialised therapist who understands the science and pays close attention to the physical, emotional and psychological needs of the client. If you are looking for cancer massage therapy, a trained Oncology therapist is the right choice.

What is involved in a treatment?

An oncology massage is performed in a similar way to any other remedial massage treatment. The session will run for approximately 60 minutes and during this time the therapist will ask you a series of questions specifically related to your experience with cancer and treatment.

A treatment plan will be devised for you and performed in a manner that suits your current needs. The massage is lighter in pressure than a remedial treatment and focuses is on creating a supporting and nurturing environment for the client.

Is there any Medical research to support Oncology Massage?

Research shows that cancer massage therapy is effective for symptom management and improving quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer or with a history of cancer diagnosis. It helps to reduce side effects experienced from conventional treatment as well as symptoms produced by the disease process itself.

Cassileth and Vickers, 2004 state that the following symptoms improved following oncology massage:

·         Pain Improved 47%

·         Fatigue Improved 42%

·         Anxiety Improved 59%

·         Nausea Improved 51%

·         Depression Improved 48%

·         Other (including shortness of breath, memory problems, dry mouth or disturbed sleep) improved 48%

Who will it benefit?

Oncology massage is of benefit to anyone currently dealing with a cancer diagnosis at any stage. This includes a patient who is receiving chemo or radiation therapy, who has recently had surgery or seeking adjunct psychological support through touch therapy.

The benefits of this massage also continue post-cancer. It is particularly helpful in the prevention of lymphoedema if nodes have been removed, as well as being an effective treatment for lymphoedema.

Even though the focus of this form of massage is cancer therapy, anyone who is quite ill, frail or low in vitality would benefit from its nurturing techniques. It is a beneficial treatment for the elderly.

Are you qualified to perform an Oncology Massage?

Yes, Jo Lynagh has completed training through Oncology Massage Training  which is a registered charity and not for profit. They are dedicated to training qualified massage therapists to safely and effectively perform cancer massage therapy and treat individuals with a diagnosis or history of cancer. The aim of this training body is to ensure national benchmarks and standards of care are met by its graduates.

The four-module program is based on a program that has been running for more than 10 years in the United States. This training provides therapists with the awareness and expertise to modify a typical remedial massage taking into consideration the client's health history and contra-indications.

To find out more, visit their website:


Can I claim on private health?

The 60-minute specialised cancer massage therapy costs $88 and is available to claim on your Private Health Insurance as a Remedial Massage as it is an adapted remedial treatment. As long as you have Remedial Massage as part of your extras cover you will be able to claim. To find out how much you will get back please call your health fund and check.

Do I need permission from my Doctor?

If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy or radiation we ask that you gain permission from your GP, RN or your specialist. If you are not undergoing treatment then you don’t need to do this.

Can I have treatment whilst having chemo or radiation?

Yes, massage therapy for cancer can be performed at any stage of your cancer diagnosis and will be adjusted to suit your specific needs at the time.

Do I need to provide any paperwork from my Doctor? If so, what?

It is not necessary, however useful information would be: type of cancer; surgeries; treatment; date of diagnosis and timeline of treatment.

How does Oncology Massage differ from Lymphatic Drainage Technique?

Whilst there are similarities between Oncology Massage and Lymphatic Drainage. Oncology massage requires more advanced training and focuses not only on the physiology of the client but also on the psychology.

Light pressure is applied much the same as lymphatic, although the aim of the treatment is not to focus only on the lymphatic system, instead it is to provide a holistic massage.

Can I still have a treatment if have a port; colostomy bag or sensitive skin?

Yes, treatment can be performed at any stage of your cancer diagnosis and will be adjusted to suit your specific needs at the time. If you have a port, colostomy bag or sensitive skin please inform us prior to your visit.

Do you use oil as part of the massage? What are the alternatives if I have a nut allergy?

Sweet Almond Oil is used as part of our massages, however if you do have an allergy to nuts we have alternatives such as coconut oil, premax or corn starch. Please advise of any allergies BEFORE coming to treatment,

Jo Lynagh
Senior Remedial Therapist


Diploma Remedial Massage

Certificate Oncology Massage

Certificate of Pregnancy Massage


Currently Studying Dry Needling

Jo Lynagh is a dedicated, caring and client focused therapist that understands people have different needs at different stages of their lives and health. She believes in constant improvement and is currently updating her skills with Dry Needling and shortly Neural Manipulative Therapy. 

Read more about Jo here