What is it?

Massage involves moving (manipulating) muscles and rubbing or stroking soft tissues of the body.

Why use it?

There are many styles of massage. They all aim to promote deep relaxation in tissue by applying pressure to the muscles and pressure points of the body. This helps to release both muscular and emotional tension. Some types of massage can reduce lymphoedema (swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid). This is called lymphatic drainage.

What to expect?

The therapist uses a variety of strokes on different parts of the body. When performing massage on a person with cancer, therapists need to adjust their pressure and avoid certain areas of the body. Some styles of massage are done with you fully clothed; others require you to undress to your underwear so the therapist can use oil to move their hands over your skin more easily.

What is the evidence?

Many scientific studies have shown that massage can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and nausea in people who have had chemotherapy or surgery for cancer. Specialised lymphatic massage can help reduce the symptoms of lymphoedema.

Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a free copy of Massage and Cancer, or download a copy from this page.

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This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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