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Cancer Patients Can Enjoy Self-Massage

With a few quiet moments and some simple movements, cancer patients can enjoy relaxing, centering self-massage.

Cherie Perez, a supervising research nurse in MD Anderson’s Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, teaches relaxation techniques to patients through the cancer center’s Place … of wellness.

Perez advises patients to talk to their doctors if they have:

  • Arthritis
  • Active cancer
  • Radiation in areas they want to massage

Patients who have had lymph nodes removed should not massage the affected limb. Instead, they can gently place a hand on the area and visualize relaxation.

A light touch can be used to avoid bruising if patients:

  • Use aspirin
  • Bruise easily
  • Have a low platelet count

Massage can be performed with:

  • Dry hands
  • Hand lotion with or without one or two drops of essential oil
  • Facial moisturizer with or without one drop of essential oil

Tips for head massage

Simple movements make up these exercises:

  • Apply fingertip pressure in circles to the:
    • Temples
    • Forehead
  • Drag two fingers over:
    • Eyebrow
    • Bridge of nose
    • Area below eyes
  • Place palms over ears:
    • Drag thumbs down back of head
    • Feel ridge in back of head
    • Press thumbs into this area and release
  • Hold face with hands, and with thumbs:
    • Reach behind ears
    • Draw circles over bony area behind ears
  • Place fingertips over cheeks:
    • Gently clench jaw
    • Draw fingertip circles, feeling jaw muscles
  • Softly tap fingertips like rain drops over:
    • Forehead
    • Cheeks
    • Chin

Tips for neck massage

Patients with arthritis or cancer in the spine should talk to their doctors before using self-massage.

Here are two neck massage techniques:

Grasp neck with palms, cup hands:

  • Allow fingertips to touch at neck bones
  • Space fingers between bony areas
  • Apply gentle pressure
  • Drag fingertips to front of neck

Grasp area where neck and shoulders meet:

  • Gently press fingers into muscle and knead
  • Grasp and release quickly or beat muscle

– From staff reports


  • Place … of wellness

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center