Cancer and Massage Therapy: Treatments Part II

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$45 members / $75 non-members     3.0 CE credits

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Effects of cancer treatment are often more powerfully felt than the effects of cancer itself. Massage can be a powerful intervention and support for people going through cancer treatment. Skilled touch may help relieve symptoms and side effects as people navigate some of the strongest treatment in conventional medicine.

This course explores the effects of the principal cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy) and examines the massage therapy contraindications for each.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this course is not designed to replace input or permission from a client’s physician for massage. It is designed to help massage therapists anticipate common issues arising in massage for this population. In all cases, you must use your professional judgment in determining how to proceed with a client based on all information available. 

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Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are discussed in some detail in this course, along with essential contraindications for some common scenarios. When you have completed this course you will be able to:

  • List complications or side effects of surgery. 
  • Describe how surgery increases risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  • Summarize areas of the body where lymph node removal or irradiation produces risk of lymphedema.
  • Identify questions to ask a client who is in radiation therapy.
  • List massage contraindications to follow concerning the radiation field.
  • Review the effects on the body when the three blood cell types are suppressed by chemotherapy, and a massage contraindication in each case.
  • Explain massage adjustments for someone with nausea.  
  • Describe massage contraindications for peripheral neuropathy.
  • Demonstrate targeted therapies for cancer treatment, the types of targeted therapies and massage guidelines for each class of targeted therapy side effects.
  • Assess how stem cell transplant is used during cancer treatment, and common side effects.
  • Review Graft versus Host Disease signs, symptoms and the appropriate response to them in a massage setting.
  • Compare complementary and alternative therapies for cancer treatment, and the massage therapist scope of practice when a client chooses them.

About the author(s)

Tracy Walton consults with hospitals and training programs, does research, and teaches “Caring for Clients with Cancer” nationally. In 2003, she was named the AMTA Teacher of the Year. She has worked with the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School’s Osher Institute, researching the role of massage in patients with metastatic cancer. A former Academic Dean and Pathology Instructor at the Muscular Therapy Institute in Massachusetts, Tracy has a Master’s degree in Biology, with concentrations in Biochemistry and Cellular Biology. 

She is the author of the textbook, Medical Conditions in Massage Therapy. She holds an abiding reverence for the heart, soul, and science of bodywork. Tracy maintains a bibliography of oncology massage research at

About the Editor

Julie Goodwin is a longtime massage therapy educator and an NCBTMB-approved provider. She is the author of Touch & Movement: Palpation and Kinesiology for Massage Therapists and creator of

Course Expiration

Please note that you must complete each AMTA online learning course and pass the exam one year from the date of purchase. If you do not complete the course and pass the exam within one year, you will be required to re-purchase the course.

Online courses expire one year from the date of purchase. When a course expires, you will no longer have access to the course materials and will be required to re-purchase the course.

Course Approval Codes

MSP #60


This course contains information that is proprietary. None of the material contained within this course may be used without the express written permission of AMTA unless otherwise indicated in the course. As a reminder, before practicing any new modalities or techniques, check with your state’s massage therapy regulatory authority to ensure they are within the state’s defined scope of practice for massage therapy.


Online courses are non-refundable. AMTA will not cover fees incurred from duplicate payments, insufficient funds, stopped payments or credit/debit cards over credit limits.