- Question from Julie: Are there any studies that show benefits of massage therapy in relation to breast cancer, especially in preventing/minimizing lymphedema?
- Answers - Dan Benor Massage, especially lymphedema massage, is extremely effective in treating post-surgical problems. It can alleviate swelling and pain. Massage also is a general tonic, in that it relaxes people. And with relaxation, people just deal with their stresses better, and their bodies heal better with just about every illness. Massage is also a form of touch therapy, and touch in itself is healing.
From my point of view, one of the things that people frequently end up with, especially if they're hospitalized and have a lot of needles, with an ingoing port, is that they're not aware their bodies have been harmed by medical touch. Not that it's done intentionally, but there is a lot of pain there. How I suggest people cope following the intensive treatment regimen is to get non-medical, non-invasive touch through a certified massage therapist or energy healer.
After I underwent prostate cancer surgery, I knew I had to desensitize my body from that physical trauma. My body had been conditioned to medical touch, and I knew I had to get some comforting, non-traumatic, non-painful touch. First, it was a Thai massage therapist, and then a general massage therapist. The first time they put their hands on me I almost clocked them one in the head! My body was so reactive. It took a good month or so to calm the body and counteract the trauma. So massage is important.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. I'd like to add that massage can be a way to carve out some time for yourself. For so many women, maintaining their roles during treatment can leave them with very little time for themselves. So an hour or 90 minutes on the massage table can be a therapeutic way to capture some time of your own with a healer. Some insurance companies will cover massage.
- Dan Benor Massage doesn't have to be done by a professional. Just comforting massage or touch from a family member can be enormously helpful, both to the person who is ill and to the person giving the touch, so they can feel they're being helpful and appreciated.
- Larry Lachman I agree. When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, the whole family has the disease in a sense, but the patient is the only one to get treatment. Many times, those of us who are cancer survivors may feel like damaged goods, and that can affect intimacy and coupling. One of the ways to counteract the closing off of intimacy is exactly what Dr. Benor just talked about: having family members reconnect in a non-threatening way.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Regarding lymphedema, there are practitioners, maybe one in a city, who are specially trained in managing lymphedema. Your own doctor may not know who that person is in your community, but the American Cancer Society or the National Lymphedema Network can usually identify the specialist in your area. Early treatment is absolutely critical, so don't minimize your symptoms.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Complementary and Holistic Techniques Part 2 featured Dan Benor, M.D., Larry Lachman, Psy.D., and moderator Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answering your questions about the various complementary and holistic treatments that may benefit those with breast cancer.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in October 2004.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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