Lymphatic Massage and Cancer Recovery

Lymphatic massage therapy is recommended as a complementary therapy that is holistic in

nature, not only treating specific symptoms but instead the entire person. The main function of

the lymphatic system, composed of lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and organs, is to detoxify the

body and support the immune system. This massage style eliminates toxins from the body

through a gentle, light touch technique and promotes the release and distribution of lymph, a

fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells.

Lymphatic massage is not as common in the United States, but it does have numerous

benefits for people who have had lymph nodes removed for cancer treatments. Sometimes the

safety of this procedure is questioned, due to a fear that massaging an area with cancer can

cause malignant cells to spread. However, light, relaxing massage can be safely administered

to patients at all stages of cancer. Cancer develops and spreads only due to changes in a cell’s

DNA, like genetic mutations, or other processes in the body.

The benefits of this therapy are many for cancer patients. Scientific research shows that for

people undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy and surgery, lymphatic massage has

the benefits of reducing pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and depression. For cancer patients

undergoing surgery, this type of massage particularly helps with healing. The massaging helps

regenerate tissue at the incision site, reduce swelling, and detoxify the body. You need medical

clearance post-surgery before getting this type of massage.

Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive

outcomes such as improvements in related sleep issues; the health of the scar tissue; quality of

life; mental clarity and alertness; and range of movement. Lymphatic massage also supports

the immune system through stimulating the production of antibodies that fight off infections and

reducing bodily inflammation that causes disease like arthritis.

Holistic benefits include the following:

  • Making a patient feel whole again

  • Helping you relax

  • Providing a space to share feelings in an informal setting

  • Makes you more likely to feel more positive about body image

  • Helps you rebuild hope

Even more so than a conventional massage, lymphatic massage is especially relaxing since

this massage type helps decrease pain in the body, where the rhythm, pressure, and motion of

such massaging reduces stress levels as well to promote overall well being.

The National Lymphedema Network does caution that in four circumstances, this massage type

should be put on hold:

1. You should not get this massage if you have a marked increase in localized swelling.

2. Wait for medical clearance for this massage if you have an infection or an increased

chance of blood-clotting.

3. If you have congestive heart failure, you don’t want to move fluid too quickly or else put a

strain on your heart.

4. If you are experiencing pain, find out where the pain is coming from first and let it cease

before starting this type of massage.

Remember that as with any type of massage, enjoy the consistent benefits that any massage

provides to your overall wellness and health. Remember to drink plenty of water and talk freely

with your massage professional.