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Posted by Joyce Laurie, Jan 10 2007 10:16PM

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Massage and cancer

Hi all

Would appreciate feedback.

I have been qualified in aromatherapy and some other modalities for a number of years.
I have opened my own holistic health centre where I rent out rooms for other therapists.

I have two women who rent out rooms who haved did Swedish and IHM. This year one is doing aromatherapy and one is doing reflexology at college.

The girl doing aromatherapy has been told by a tutor not to massage ANYONE who has EVER had cancer (certainly not within a 15 year period) and DEFINITELY NEVER, EVER anyone who has had breast cancer due to "possible lymphatic spread, as this is one cancer where this MAY happen"

Well, as I am a nurse of 20+ years I have a very firm grounding in physiology. Both my son and I have had cancer and I have also treated people who have had cancer in the past. Any cancer, in any organ is subject to spread and lymphatic spread.

I have also completed courses which are Embody approved (SEED institute) regarding treating people who have had cancer.

Anyway, the crux of this message is....I am about to contact the college concerned, which teaches VTCT courses, with my concerns regarding what these women are being told. Also, bear in mind that these women are paying full price through the college for their courses and are becoming confused re: what they are being told and coursesthey are seeing as being available as post graduate.

Whilst I am more than aware that core courses will not advocate treating people who have or have had cancer I am mightily concerned that at least one tutor is telling these students not to touch anyone who has EVER had cancer ever at all.

I am very, very concerned about this and would appreciate any information anyone may have.

I also appreciate that some therapists have little knowledge regards cancer and may not have the confidence to treat people who have experienced a cancer diagnosis but feel this college are putting incredible fear and confusion into their students with what I feel is spurious information.


John Dent
Jan 12 2007 4:43PM
I happened to be with a senior member of VTCT assessors team yesterday and I asked her.
She told me that VTCT does NOT suggest in its syllabus that treating clients with cancer is banned. It does have in its syllabus a clear ststement of the contraindications to massage and students should have learned these. Tutors on VTCT courses are emplyed by the college and not VTCT and so it cannot control what a tutor teaches.

VTCT syllabus should be on its website. The college involved will certainly have a copy. The lady needs to check with VTCT.

CThA does approve courses run by SEED. Some of these do teach those with therapy qualifications how to deal with cleints with cancer.

CThA is currently trying to get agreement from many course providers, colleges and others especially in medicine on what the right training for those complementary therapists who want to advertise that that they are specifically qualified in using their therapy in cases of clients with cancer. This would be at "post graduate" level and would indicate that the person had studied sufficient oncology and had been trained in the special methods required as well as learning to deal wit the emotional aspects.

CThA insurance covers those who treat cleints with medical conditions as long as they stay within the limitations set out in their qualification.

If any members have views it would be interesteing to know them.

John Dent
Joyce Laurie
Jan 12 2007 5:30PM
Thanks for your feedback John.

I think that what is happening that some people who are teaching are foisting their own opinions on students without having the full facts.

I feel that the colleges should be encouraging students to delve into more research and making their practice more "evidence based" rather than the opinions of whoever is teaching them. There are very few courses that I have done where any tutor has encouraged or led students to look into research which although thin on the ground, is available if looked for. I guess having been in nursing for a while makes me look at the reasons why we do things and not just take someones word as gospel.

We will never be taken seriously by other disciplines until we do become more knowledgeable and can discuss what we do, with others (e.g medics etc) and be able to quote or produce research to support what we do and why.

I feel really sorry for these ladies as they are now totally bewildered as to what they have been told... before in their first course (i.e. wait until all clear or five years re treating folk with cancer), what they are being told now (i.e Never) and when I told them about Vodder MLD training for lymphoedema which can be used for people who have recently had surgery they were mightily confused about who or what is correct.

It's a crying shame that this matter cannot be cleared up.

At the end of the day, it's the clients decision whether they wish to include complimentary therapies in their care. Whether they will find therapists who are willing to, is another matter.

Joyce (who has had massages regularly since completing chemo, radio, etc) and is grateful to be here five years on)
Mariette Lobo
Jan 12 2007 9:37PM
John - I think you've made several valid points.

Although the students are training in VTCT - where has the tutor trained?

His/her recommendations have definitely not come from any VTCT documentation and is not what tutors advocate at my local FE college where we teach VTCT courses in Holistic Therapies. So I have been a little concerned that the issue is misinterpreted as official VTCT content. As I see it, a tutor has not made it clear to her students that on the subject of CAM and cancer, she is expressing a personal opinion which is not supported by the VTCT curriculum and, as far as I'm aware, by any other professional opinion.

I pioneered CAM within the fields of cancer and palliative care at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow for a number of years and, as a consequence, CAM is now being adopted in many Scottish Health Centres, Hospices etc to help cancer patients and their carers.

I agree there is a need for postgrad type courses to cover areas such as this and it is something I intend raising at my college and with colleagues in Scotland.
Joyce Laurie
Jan 13 2007 6:14PM
Is it possible that anyone can tell me what VTCT DO advise students re massage and cancer.

I sourced research papers on Pubmed and other resources regarding research undertaken on people with breast cancer having massage immediately following surgery to assesse massages efficacy at alleviating anxiety and depression with positive results.

The website for Breast Cancer Care has information on receiving massage after treatment only advising caution re scar tissue and radiotherapy areas.

If I can find information as easily as this then why do the colleges persist in teaching outdated information?
Barbara Towli
Jan 31 2007 3:33PM
Sorry I have probably come into this too late but have just seen your message. I trained with VTCT in Massage and Aromatherapy. I work with a local hospital in Kent in their macmillan built centre where we offer 6 free sessions to cancer patients and their carers. I am not aware of any ruling by VTCT but do feel that personal opinion plays a great part in what the tutors tell us. I know one of my tutors in particular would actively encourage therapists to build upon their knowledge by treating as many patients as they possibly could with various problems: providing of course the patient had their doctor's written consent.

Hope this helps
John Dent
Jan 31 2007 5:20PM
CThA is interested in the opinions of members who regularly treat clients who have or have had any form of cancer.
The 2 questions are:
1. "Should CThA lead the way in establishing post-graduate qualifications for those who wish to state that they have a specialist skill and knowledge in treating cancer patients such that both patients (and their partners) and the medical profession will have more confidence in the ability of the therapy to help them.?"

2. If so: "Should such qualifications include a sufficent study of cancer, the correct contraindications and an awareness, with the ability to assist, of the emotional state of such clients and their families. The cours to be taught BOTH by a person who is qualified in cancer as a subject (oncology nurse trainer, oncology lecturer etc.)AND by a therapy lecturer in the therapy who has her/himself a full experience of treating clients with cancer?"

At present there are many courses and day workshops that offer training in the use of a therapy for cancer patients and CThA has to decide if it can accept diplomas issued by such for listing on members' treatments and for insurance.

There is at present no national standard and no agreed procedures for this. CThA is aware - and is in duscussion with - several course providers who offer quality courses but at present there is no understanding of the right "standard" to apply.

If you have a keen interest or experinec in thsi area please do give your views here.

Many thanks
John Dent
General Manager
Sarah Bartram
Feb 12 2007 5:11PM
Hi John,
I have been a member of CThA since 2004 and gaining experience all the time as i build my client base. On Sat 24th March i'm taking part in a CREST Charity event for cancer patients and their carers. I'm looking forward to taking part, meeting the organiser and other therapists.
On the day i will being giving two treatments to carers as i need to complete a Pallitive Care Course before treating patients.
I feel strong enough as a practitioner to take on this and believe working with cancer patients will be humbling.
Any graduate course can only be a good thing in making sure therapists are well informed and supported correctly.
Kind Regards
John Dent
Feb 12 2007 5:51PM
Can I ask which course?
Is it one that really teaches you all the issues - especially the emotional state of client and the family?

Lydia Nightingale
Mar 12 2007 9:16PM
'Adapting Massage' courses at Christie Hospital's (an internationally recognised NHS cancer hospital in Manchester) Complementary Therapies Training Unit cover the emotional iisues for patients, carers (family and friends) and staff. their clinical lead, Dr Peter Mackereth, has just published a book with Ann Carter that answers many of the issues raised - "Massage and Bodywork: Adapting Therapies for Cancer Care" ISBN-10: 0 443 10031 4 . this book is really useful for therapists wanting to work with cancer patients and explores the areas of 'is massage appropriate?' and 'can massage cause cancer to spread?'

Sue Hannaford
Mar 24 2007 6:04PM
I also attended the Crest Cancer Day (today!). I did the 'Adapting Massage in Palliative Care" with the fantastic Mary Atkinson at the Natural Health School in Thames Ditton (available at other schools!). This is an Embody listed CPD course (ref C734) so I hope that I'm right in assuming it's 'up to the mark'. There was loads of information and discussion on the course and some really good recommended reading, including references to the the National Guidelines for the Use of Complementary Therapies in Supportive and Palliative Care published by the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health which sites comp healthcare as 'an acceptable intervention'. For really in depth information on all aspects of Massage and Cancer, I personally recommend Medicine Hands by Gayle MacDonald - excellent - from the scientific to the spiritual. As with working with any 'serious condition' I also know the limits. I was passionate about the idea of treating cancer patients/survivors as 'normal' people and I now have the confidence to do that.

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