Oncology massage helps cancer patients manage treatment

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Getting a massage turned out to be a pleasant bonus in the midst of a grueling chemotherapy treatment for cancer patient Dora Dunn. But at first, she turned it down.

"They asked me if I wanted a massage. At first, I was like, spa? I don't need that, I want to go home," Dunn said.

The busy, stressed-out, 37-year-old mother of five was fighting an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. She felt she didn't have the time for such a luxury.

"As soon as I did, I have to say, I went home relieved, happier, positive," Dunn said.

Dr. David Kim of Levy Cancer Center says massage helps patients manage their experience with cancer.

"We've had a number of people tell us that it reduces their stress and anxiety level," Kim said.

While massage for stress relief can do wonders for a patient's mental health, Fernando Vasquez is a specialist certified in oncology massage.

He works hand-in-hand with doctors and nurses to ensure he provides the appropriate therapy for the different types of patients. Certain pressure points not only promote relaxation, but can also target other health issues that come with cancer treatment.

"One of the side effects of the chemo, even radiation, is nausea, vomiting. By pressing those specific points on the feet, we can reduce that feeling of nausea and vomiting," Vasquez said.

Massage has been shown to bolster the immune system, remove toxins, and restore energy and circulation. Dunn received free massage alongside her treatments at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital.

But other cancer treatment facilities may offer massage therapy, which can be billed through insurance depending on your policy.

Dunn says it helped her a lot with healing, spiritually and physically.

"I went home positive, gave time to my kids, went to sleep solid, great, feeling so great, waking up fresh," Dunn said.

She is now a patient advocate who often recommends oncology massage.

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