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