Lymphedema Massage - 1290319

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 15:14

For patients with active cancer, who have developed lymphedema, do you think massage by a physical therapist trained in lymphedema massage to reduce swelling, do you think massage spreads the cancer to other parts of the body?

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Hi Marie,

There's no data suggesting massage will do anything but hopefully make a person feel better. This question was brought up several years ago so I don't know that I could find it.

Hope you're doing fine.


scorn, thank you so much for these links, they really are informative. The only thing different is, the lymphatic massage therapist I saw was concerned with giving massage in patients with active cancer. The article you sent discusses women in remission of breast cancer. My therapist was supposed to talk to my oncologist and get back to me. It will be interesting what he recommends, but knowing him, I would guess he will say to go ahead with the massage mainly for quality of life. Currently, besides the tumor in my abdomen and hip bone, I also have a few lesions in my lungs and liver, as well as in to lymph node sites. How worse can it get? I am currently not getting treatment, and trying to find a clinical trial. This is not easy, and I'm praying God leads me to the right path. The pain of the lymphedema doesn't help. Thanks again so much for responding.


Hi marieharvey.

I found the citation for another article that might be even more relevant for you, but I was only able to see the abstract for the moment.

Can manual treatment of lymphedema promote metastasis?
Godette K, Mondry TE, Johnstone PA.
J Soc Integr Oncol. 2006 Winter;4(1):8-12.

From the abstract it looks like they support the idea that "cancer research supports the contention that this therapy does not contribute to spread of disease and should not be withheld from patients with metastasis."

As always, such studies need to be discussed directly with your oncologist to determine the relevance to your particular case.

Sending lots of internet hugs and hope for treatment that eases the lymphedema pain, and prayers that you find a good clinical trial or treatment that leads to some great results. You'll be in our prayers for peace, health, and healing.



Thank you so much. I wish there was someway to find out what Dr. Pennell was referring to when he said " with some exceptions." In my mind he could very well be referring to lymphedema. Is he still on this forum? Is Dr West still here and answering questions? It has been a while since I've been on the forum.


I'm assuming Dr. Pennell is referring to the exceptions in the following pps where he suggests personal assumptions about where there are bone mets deep tissue massage may cause fracture and where there is nerve damage massage could cause more pain. However since I wrote assume twice I'll see if we can find Dr. Pennell to clarify.

Our oncology faculty still comment from time to time but for the most part the moderators (Jim and I at the moment) field most of the questions with the deep supply of articles and threads on hand. Having the oncologists online all the time was pretty amazing, I wouldn't know what I know without it but it was not sustainable for the ever busy and evolving oncologists. Many still contribute through video and blog posts and on our board. Dr. West, who conceptualized and started Grace is still president of the Grace board and is often moderator of #LCSM chat Thursday evening twitter discussions.

Dr Pennell

Janine is correct, I outlined the exceptions in the rest of my post. Generally massage is safe but very forceful massage in someone with pain or bone metastases could hypothetically cause harm so urged caution in those cases.