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How much difference do you make as an oncology trained spa therapist?

cancer patient oncology touch treatments spa therapist therapist training Feb 01, 2022
oncology touch treatments

As therapists we want to provide care to other people. Invariably it’s a personality trait long before it becomes a job. Our chosen method of caring for people is through touch treatments, but we come up against barriers when it comes to particularly vulnerable clients like cancer patients.

Our instinct to care is conflicted because we need the appropriate knowledge to treat them safely. This, of course, is where oncology training like ours breaks down those barriers. However, despite our natural desire to care, to help, to nurture and support, we are also running a business - whether we work alone or are part of a team. There’s a financial as well as time cost to oncology training, which makes the question ‘is it worth it?’ a reasonable one.

In this article we look at the impact of oncology touch treatments and associated training - on the client, and on the therapist, to explore the evidence-based impact of oncology touch treatment training. Being us, we have also thrown a few opinions in on the matter as well.

Is oncology training worth it?

To our mind, the question of whether oncology training is worth it comes down to two points:

  • The impact on the client
  • The impact on the therapist and their business

Many of us feel that evidence for these two things should come down to scientific facts and figures. To some extent it does.

However we also think it’s important not to dismiss the anecdotal evidence as well. If someone feels better after a massage and more confident in their appearance, then it is a successful outcome.

For cancer patients, feeling positive and finding ways to manage mental health throughout the cancer journey means being demonstrably better placed to deal with the challenges that they face.

“These therapies have transformed my business, and they truly are wonderful. The products are amazing too.” - Spa owner and therapist

Cancer patient mental wellbeing

There’s both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that oncology touch treatments provide a wide range of short- and long-term mental health benefits. These include:

  • Reduced perception of pain
  • Reduced nausea
  • Reduced pain intensity
  • Increased relaxation
  • Reduced respiratory rate
  • Reduced anxiety, depressed moods and anger
  • Improved sleep quality

These findings are supported by a study that showed increased urinary dopamine, serotonin values, natural killer cell number and lymphocytes in breast cancer patients as a long-term side effect of ongoing touch treatments.

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Cancer patient physical wellbeing

We also know that touch therapies can provide physical relief from aches, pains and tension caused both by cancer itself, cancer treatment and the associated stress that goes with it. For example:

  • Reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure
  • Decrease in physical discomfort
  • Increased vigour
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Reduced aches and pains
  • Improved circulation
  • They can help ease headaches

While massage cannot take cancer away, it can help to ease some of the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, helping to make the journey more bearable for individuals. That is a wonderful gift to be able to give.

Spa therapist confidence and business outcomes

“My interest was piqued because I had a close family member as well as a good friend who had both recently been diagnosed with cancer and I was so frustrated that, even with my Level 3 diploma in aromatherapy, I wasn’t able to support them.” - Sue Bond, Therapist and owner of Tranquil Tea House Therapies

Your confidence as a therapist is also important. Feeling unable to treat a cancer patient because you haven’t got the knowledge or insurance to support them can be extremely upsetting. If anyone needs support, it’s someone who has received a cancer diagnosis, making it go against every one of our moral fibres not to reach out and help where we can.

On a practical note, with one in two people predicted to get cancer at some point in their lives, it’s also extremely limiting (if not unethical) to turn each of those people away from your business. The goal of oncology touch treatment training is to give therapists the knowledge, the confidence and the tools they need to adapt treatments to individual needs. That means:

  • Greater job satisfaction
  • A new dimension to your business
  • Greater confidence when treating vulnerable clients
  • Greater client confidence
  • Greater client satisfaction
  • The knowledge you have made a difference

Do spa treatments matter in the face of cancer?

“I have really enjoyed the treatments and I wasn’t aware of how stressed I actually was. I found the massage really relaxing and did not want to get off the couch. I am sleeping better and generally feel better than I have done in years. I am a convert now after having these treatments and experiencing first hand the physical difference, but also the mental impact that they had on me.”

The question of whether spa treatments matter in the face of cancer is a common topic of discussion. There’s a lot of guilt for many cancer patients around beauty and holistic care when it comes to cancer treatment. There’s a sense of ‘what does it matter if you have dry skin or you can’t sleep or you’re tired, in the face of something as serious as cancer and the herculean efforts of cancer treatments to address it?’.

For therapists, there can also be a feeling that what we are doing isn’t enough. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to what this person is going through. To really answer this question, you need to speak to a cancer patient who has experienced touch treatments. We have the privilege of speaking to many people affected by cancer and their reaction never fails to amaze and inspire us to do more. It also reminds us that what we do, what we have dedicated our careers to, matters.

The point is that even when you're living through or beyond cancer treatment, you are still living, and quality of life is important. Feeling as good as possible in your own skin, in your own body, feeling cared for and nurtured, even happy - these things are essential to enjoying the moment and galvanising us for the challenges that we face each day (cancer or not).

That is what you as a therapist give to cancer patients through oncology touch treatments, and to our mind, that’s why oncology training is worth it.

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