Years ago, Sue Harmsworth, founder of ESPA and a member of the task force for Wellness For Cancer (WFC), noticed an increase in the number of clients with cancer seeking spa treatments. “As consultations in spas became more prevalent, one of the questions was 'Do you have or have you had cancer?'" says Harmsworth. “Or at the other end of the scale, there was no consultation at all, often because of a language barrier.”
As a result, two scenarios emerged. In one, the therapists felt apprehensive and unsure about how to treat guests with cancer, so spas adopted a policy of only treating clients with cancer if they could provide a doctor’s note. That meant turning away clients who were seeking out their care often using the wrong terminology. The other scenario involved finding out halfway through a treatment that there were issues and not knowing how to handle it. According to Harmsworth, both have a negative psychological impact on guests.
While WFC has certainly changed the way spas treat those suffering from cancer, the industry still has a ways to go. “One of my big problems with the industry, globally, is that courses are being introduced— because awareness is now much greater, and the number of clients is increasing—but there is no regulatory body monitoring the content of the courses, and most of them are too short, often two or three days, without good theory, contraindications, or information on different types of cancer,” says Harmsworth.
According to her, the issue goes well beyond just breast cancer, as therapists need to know how to respond to people diagnosed with other cancers, as well. Harmsworth also points out that the industry is cutting down on industry training due to the cost and staff turnover.