Training to Treat Oncology Patients

Oncology patients are undergoing one of the most difficult experiences emotionally, mentally, and physically and could most benefit from the healing and soothing effects of relaxing skincare and massage treatments.

In general Johnnette du Rand, LMT, MLD, NCTMB, co-founder and director of education for Greet The Day, an organization focused on improving the quality of life for people affected by cancer through education, massage, and restorative skincare recommends following the International Dermal Institute’s ‘less rule’ guidelines: less heat, less friction, less product, and less time. “The skin can become very sensitive after cancer treatments,” says Karen Morse, MPH, CEO and founder of Wellness Science, a company that provides customized lifestyle plans to improve health and overall wellness. “Some even experience skin itching, burning, and mild to severe rashes.” Oncology patients often require more specific adjustments, so further training is recommended. Cancer treatment does limit the massage techniques, but when therapists adapt, clients can safely reap the benefits from soothing touch including reduced pain and fatigue, decreased anxiety, reduced nausea, improved sleep, enhanced body image, and an overall greater sense of wellbeing.

Chemo and radiation therapy are strong enough to halt the replication of the cancer cells, but also inevitably cause some harm to healthy cells and permanent change in patients’ skin and other systems. These changes make it is necessary for therapists to attend oncology certification courses to understand how the body will respond to services. These courses offered widely and generally in one-day sessions provide spa professionals the tools and know-how to then give the best treatments to oncology patients. “The long-term side effects of cancer treatment are often overlooked, by therapists and spa management, and most all oncology clients will need massage and facial service modifications for the rest of their lives, and should only be receiving services by appropriately trained therapists,” says Kelly Ridgeway Spa Gregories Day Spas & Salons (multiple locations) marketing coordinator.

Oncology trained professionals will able to recognize risk and adjust to offer the customized services for the client. “Therapists sometimes play a guessing game and make modifications that they think are appropriate. But patients are exhausted after a spa service because the body was put through too much,” says du Rand. It is easy to prevent such an unpleasant visit for the client. A number of established organizations—such as International Society for Oncology Estheticians (ISOE) and the Society for Oncology Massage (S40M)—host accredited oncology training and have guidelines for required curriculum content. “At a minimum, preparatory training for skin and massage therapists who want to work with oncology clients should include an understanding of how cancer start and spreads, primary clinical considerations and required modifications, cancer treatments and their side effects, product considerations, and supervised experience working with oncology clients,” says du Rand.

The Nouveau Contour Academy hosts advanced training courses, including one on areola pigmentation, to help technicians learn how to use color combinations and needle configurations on the machine to achieve optimal results for patients. Additionally these and other oncology-trained professionals volunteer their time and bring their expertise to clinics to reach patients most in need of healing. Often patients receive hand and foot massages while receiving chemotherapy. Greet the Day helps connect spas with nearby cancer centers to bring estheticians directly to the clients. “We want there to be a collaborative relationship with conventional clinical and integrative care,” says du Rand. “We are the bridge between the two parties.” Services offered include hand and foot massages in chemo infusion therapy centers while receiving the treatment. Increasingly oncology massage is used as complementary care in the clinical setting to bring additional soothing and relaxation to the patient directly.

Does your spa offer specific treatments for oncology patients?

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