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Oncology Massage: Fact vs. Myth

10 Hour CE Course

Average rating based on the following evaluation questions:

  1. The presentation of the subject was clear and to the point.
  2. Content was interesting to me.
  3. I gained new knowledge.
  4. The materials held my attention.
  5. I can use this information in my practice.
  6. This program met my personal expectations.
  7. Overall quality of course content and materials were excellent.

Enrollment Options

Materials and Test Shipped to You

Contents: Text and multiple-choice test shipped to you.


Text Materials Shipped and Test Online

Contents: Text shipped to you. online multiple-choice test.


No Text (I Already Own Text) and Test Online

Contents: online multiple-choice test only.
(I already own "Medicine Hands" text.)


No Text (I Already Own Text) and Test Shipped

Contents: Multiple-choice test shipped only.
(I already own "Medicine Hands" text.)


Do you have the Medicine Hands textbook? See your enrollment options above for "I already own the text".


Based on a textbook by Gayle MacDonald, MS, LMT, this detailed and informative course presents solid conceptual guidelines about safe, beneficial touch for people who have cancer. It includes the research, science, and cautions of using touch to support people of all ages who have cancer, including ways massage can strengthen the body before and after cancer treatment. The textbook provides a valuable, comprehensive resource that will interest massage therapists, clients and caregivers. This course does not teach hands-on skills. Please seek additional experience, with a mentor, to add hands-on skills.

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Content Outline

A New Era in Oncology Massage, Understanding Metastasis-Putting "Old Wives' Tales" to Rest 0.5 hours
Touch: Rx for Body, Mind and Heart-A Review of the Research
  • Research Literacy; Research Inclusion Criteria, and Isolating the Research Variables
  • Reducing Pain, Anxiety, Nausea and Vomiting, Fatigue, Insomnia, Immune Function, Lymphedema, Vital Signs, Medication Use, Quality of Life, Patient Perception, and Other Benefits
  • Comparison of Modalities; Qualitative Research, and Final Thoughts
1 hour
The Need for a Less Demanding Approach
  • Why Be Less Demanding; Side Effects of Conventional Cancer Treatments: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy, and Biotherapies
  • Psychological Demands of Treatment; The Effects of the Disease Process; How To Be Less Demanding; Gauging the Level of Demand, and Final Thoughts
1.5 hours
First Do No Harm
  • Adjusting for Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, such as: Alopecia, Anemia, Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome, Bone Fragility, Breathing Difficulty, Constipation, Edema, Fatigue, Hand and Foot Syndrome, Herpes, Lymphedema, Medical Devices, Nausea
  • Adjusting for Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, such as: Neutropenia, Pain, Peripheral Neuropathy, Scars, Skin Conditions, Thrombocytopenia, Thromboembolic Disorders, and Final Thoughts
2 hours
Strengthening the Body through Massage 0.5 hours
Massage for Children Living With Cancer
  • Special Knowledge for Special Patients; Types of Cancer; Treating Children for Cancer
  • Children Differ Physiologically From Adults; Children's Psychological and Emotional Development
  • Preparing Children for Massage; The Massage Session
1.5 hours
Working with Family Members; End-of-Life Issues; Final Thoughts, and References 0.5 hours
Comforting Touch for the Dying 0.5 hours
Massage as Respite: Caring for the Caregivers
Gathering Information-An Essential Part of Safe Practice
Companions on the Journey-Who Gives? Who Receives?
1 hour
Open-book Test and Course Evaluation 1 hour
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Good detailed course. I learned a lot and thought the study guide was very well in order with the book.

Cara Skradski

Your course exceeded my expectations - the material (book) was well written, thorough, full of helpful information and anecdotes, up-to-date and encouraging.

Elsic A. Lintz CMT York, PA

The material wa very well written, especially the quotos on the sides of the pages.

Kim Leher - RN CMT, State of PA.

I found this course to be extremely helpful and timely as I am serving more and more clients at varying stages of cancer treatment in my practice. It's nice to know I can add something positive and helpful to their lives.

Maryjane Michaud, MA, LMT, Worcester, MA

I thought the text book was magnificent and full of insightful & interesting stories, examples, and ideas. Everything has been great! I really enjoyed this course and feel like I have learned so much about myself and how/where I want my practice to go forward. Thank you!

Michelle Todd LMT, NCTMB Northwood, NH

My Mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and doing well. This course was extremely helpful to our entire family.

Roberta Icenbice, CMT

I learned a lot from this course. Very informative.

Ronette Moore, NCMT, Amboy, IL

EXCELLENT study course, very in depth, very concise.

Sharon Tabor-Cheek, LMT

This was one of the best courses I've ever taken. I have been licensed 8 years and have always avoided cancer because of what I was taught in massage school. I certainly feel enlightened! The explanation of the way that cancer spreads was well written and done so in a way that was understandable yet concise enough to cover all the information described in your course content.

Theresa Kelley, Albuquerque, NM

I highly recommend this course for a really good and informing home study. I have been a LMT for 13 years and I leaned a lot of helpful things.

Vicky L. Rivait, LMP Shelbyville, TN

Outstanding material for massage therapists who work with cancer patients.

William Laquale, LMT, NCTMB, SeeKink Massage Therepy, Seekink MA

I learned a tremendous amount. I agree that this should be taught in every massage school. Excellent course.

Patricia Adams, LMT, NCTMB

The information was well written and really encouraged me to seek out further education on this subject.

Gale Porcarelli-Klenk, CMT, NCTMB

I Loved this course, made me feel much more confident about working with cancer patients and utilizing not only my Reiki, but also my life experiences with friends & family dealing with cancer.

Hellen Baridon, LMT

This is a very important topic and the information was put forward in a clear and readable manner. Thank you for the opportunity to take this course online.

Marlene Palmquist, LMT, RMT, NCTMB

Excellent info. I work as an Integrated Therapist at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs Colorado. We have a multi-million dollar cancer center opening up end of summer and this course gives me knowledge to be more comfortable and more effective with the patients I'll be working with.

Sandra Haber, RMT, NCTMB

I really loved this course and look foward to future course to take. It was very insightful and easy to understand.

Shawn Coles, LMT

I really enjoyed this course. The section about meds with cancer patients was very helpful to me. I have been looking for information in this area and now I have it at my fingertips Thank you very much.

Ginny Connors, OP

Wonderful Material! Very thorough test and learning experience!

Heidi Bellandi, LMP

This course was exceptional.I am much better prepared to address the needs of my Guests with cancer.

Todd Reed, LMT

Love this book Ms. Gayle MacDonald is a great writer and was easy to understand from a LMT.!!!

Victoria Grindstaff-Redler, LMT

I thought the couse was excellent. I particularly liked the personal stories of therapists' experiences.

Sher Eldemire, LMT, NCTMB

Excellent Course. Covered all the aspects to better understand cancer and the patients it affects, and how we as massage therapists can be an equal partner with them.

Cleo Phillips, LMT

It was very insightful and opened my eyes in a new way of all the body goes through during cancer. I knew it was tough and a nasty disease but this course showed just how extensive and different each person and treatment is and how taxing it is on everyone involved. Also it made me aware of how one can help. I am a therapist that enjoys doing deep tissue and rehab work so it shows me a whole new side of light touch and how it can be equally effective.

Loralee Aikins, LMT

I work in a hospital administering massage, I work a lot with cancer patients and I am excited to integrate what Ii have learned through this and some of it i already knew but it reconfirmed that i was taking proper precautions.

Christa Medlock, LMP

This was a wonderful course and I am thankful to have taken it!

Debra Wall, LMT

At the age of 63 I have not exerted this much cerebral work in a while. I found it very satisfying and stimulating! The book was very well written! Thank you

Henry Cloud, LMT

Excellent course. Surpassed my expectations for a home-based course. I especially loved the text which, although was filled with technical information and statistics, was also very heart-centered.

Brenda Brennecke, LMBT

Improved my instincts and knowledge in working with cancer clients.

Fred Wachtel, LMT, NCTMB


Rodney Kneib, LMT, NCTMB

I am very pleased and impressed with the text book for this course - it has a lot of valuable information. Thank you!

Janice Bushnell, LMT, NCTMB

I loved it...I'm going to expand my business in this area.

Rhonda Aichele-Johnson, LMT

Great book and it covers lots of information that is needed for all massage therapist who plan on being in the business for a long time.

Gilbert Rivera, LMT

The course was thought provoking and brought up feelings of sadness from personal experience of my own close family members. Very in depth and emotionally, spiritually up lifting. Thank you!

Stephanie Reid, LMT, NCTMB

Very well done! More courses on the effects of energy work on patients as it pertains to stress and disease i.e. Reiki

Leslie Merritt, LMT

This course was VERY informative! It kept my interest and actually made me think about working with children that have cancer on a more serious level!

Christina Wagh, LMT, NCTMB

Just started working in an Oncology ward at a hospital, very helpful.

Bobbi Johnson, NCTMB

Enjoyed reading this. I would like to learn more in the future, Thank you!

Ashley Loggins, LMT

This course was very insightful. I enjoyed it very much.

Andrea Kamatz, LMT

LOVED this course-I'm so thankful I studied this & will continue to learn more and use this in my practice. I too, was always afraid to massage anyone diagnosed with cancer because of what we were told in school. I gave my mother (who passed away of ovarian cancer at age 56) light massages every day possible to ease her pain & help her feel "whole" and alive. Having the knowledge now from taking this course makes me LOVE my job even more. I'm very excited to share this with my many clients who have cancer or in remission. THANK YOU!! =)

Cami Deroche, LMT

Wonderful and extremely useful material!

Holly Dale, CMT, NCTMB

This is one of the best courses I have taken in 15 years as a LMT. MEDICINE HANDS is informative, provocative yet immensely practical, and extremely well written. I loved the stories woven into the information. I am sure I will go back to it again and again as a treasured reference.

Victoria Heland, CMT

I learned a lot and was challenged by the test which doesn't always happen on homestudy courses. I will really use this information provided.

Karla Caruso, NCTMB

I loved this course & content! It was very informative, well presented, and well rounded. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in pursuing this amazing field of massage! Thank you!

Amy Thompson, LMT

This course addressed many of my "fears" of massaging cancer patients. Thank you for the excellent material and the convenience of providing home study courses.

Sandra Aycoth, LMBT, NCTMB

The written material far exceeded my expections--very useful, thanks!

Sheryl Tilton, LMT, NCTMB

It was a very sad course to take, but it needed to be done. I gained all lot of information from this text.. it will be extremely helpful. thank you

Jeanette Vukonich, LMT, NCTMB

The course was excellent. I greatly enjoyed it. I would like to see more classes offered in the subject of cancer and massage and the modalities to further enhance my knowledge.

Marcea Person, LMT

I really enjoyed this book. Great choice.

Debra Libretto, LMBT, LMT, NCTMB

This was a wonderful course and I am looking forward to taking my next class through the Institute as they have many courses I am looking forward to take as I feel they will keep me engaged in what I love doing, MASSAGE and helping others to feel better in their day to day lives doing what they love doing!

Susann THompson, LMT, NCTMB

This is an excellent course and resource reference for the Oncology Massage Therapist. I learned a great deal regarding all aspects of cancer, including massage, from the patient to the caregiver!

Tanya Muhleisen, LMT

The course was fab. Having a person in my family that has cancer, this program really helped me a lot. I now KNOW what I can and cannot do, and it makes me feel much more at ease with working on them. Also, this is an important course for ALL MT's to take. Truly, one of the best courses I've ever taken. I've put up a sign at work with this institutes name and the info on the class where I work, so others can take it too.

Dulcie Marshall, LMT, NCTMB

Very good book! I recommend this course to everyone!

Bobbie Jo Hargrave, LMT, NCTMB

As a massage therapist who has practiced over 20 years, this course was long overdue. I feel so prepared and knowledgeable. Amazingly written, thorough, and well researched. I am so grateful, “Medicine hands”!

Nancy Lincoln

Very interesting! I was taught to not massage cancer patients so this was very inspiring, Book was very informative and detailed. Some of the questions were challenging although finding the answer was well worth it for the learning experience. Glad I purchased this because the cancer info was so informative.

Chanda Garner, NCTMB

This was an amazing course, and challenged me in many ways. Thank you so much and would love more like it, pertaining to cancer, autism, abuse, and hospice care. Thank you!

Rise Fleisig, LMT

Love this course! Great and useful information. Sadly I know so many afflicted this will really help me move through the process with them, with expanded knowledge and tools to assist patients and their family through a challenging time.

Elizabeth Trejo, CMT, NCTMB

Thank you for this class. Much of the information learned 15 years ago in massage school is not valid. I appreciate the updated information and the evidence that supports the information. Evidence based material lends more credibility to the information and allows me to be confident that this information will not allow me to cause harm to my clients. I had been asking for this very class for years and it was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.

Jillian Hubbel, CMP

Great information and well presented and comprehensive plus many references for additional study.

Lisa Schupp, LMT

This course was very straight forward and the staff were very helpful! I can’t wait to do another course from the Institute.

Leah Tritjah, RMT

The information in the course is very appropriate to my clinical practice. I like the accessibility of the course. Thank you very much for providing a much needed for those of us unable to go out for training and development.

Sharon Butler, RMT

This course was fascinating. Massage is truly beneficial for cancer patients.

Debra Susan Laxalt, LMT

Wow! This course and the Institute went way beyond my expectations. Two other co-workers also took this course because I encouraged them to. One is now certified because of it! Thank you!

Jessica Morgan, LMT

I found this course extremely interesting and practical. I believe every massage therapist should take it !

Debbie Dal Bello-Conn, RMT

The course was very interesting.

Senaida Lopez, LMT

This course reading material was highly detailed and medically focused. I am an RN and understood most of the material, however a typical CMT may not absorb or understand all of what is in this course. It was a high level understanding of anatomy and physiology in regards to the oncology patient. I do feel it gives detailed research information to back up the need and demand for oncology and advanced illness massage. I will use the course material for reference.

Monika Theer, CMT

Well written textbook with this course!

Larry Steiger, LMT

The course was very well presented and interesting. I do not plan to do oncology massage but now I feel that I am better informed on the subject and better equipped to help any cancer patient that might come into our office.

Kathleen G. Wright, LMT

Ok course. Having been through cancer with multiple people I thought it gives a good background, especially for newbies!

Roberta Mitchell, LMT, NCTMB

The reading materials were interesting and easy to follow. Also, the reading made you understand.

Theresa Hennegan, LMT

This course was incredibly thorough and informative. I will be using this book as a reference material in my practice.

Grace LaDelfa, LMT, NCTMB

This course, in particular, is important information for all massage therapists to know. The techniques and contents in the text book work for many chronic health conditions other than cancer. Bravo to author, Gayle MacDonald for compiling the research and shearing them in this updated edition. I am a very happy student.

Janis Sommers, LMT

I really loved this course. I learned so much.

Christina Hernandez, LMT, NCTMB

Loved this material! Learned so much and now have the knowledge and understanding. Thank you.

Jennifer Tucker

This course is incredibly well written and includes patient stories which added an extra special touch. I highly recommend this course. Im 4 months out of chemo for ovarian cancer and being a patient or a loved one dealing with cancer this book could be very beneficial.

Diana Johnson, LMT

Excellent and thoughtful text. A cancer survivor myself, I really appreciate the gentle and conservative approach to the subject matter.

Marcia Kaveney

The book was well written and easy to understand, though technical. It impressed upon me the need for education for massage therapists as well as cancer survivors to be aware of how potentially damaging deeper work can be and how profound lighter body work can be. It was also amazing how much info has changed in 20 years on the lymphatic system alone. Very interesting. I was surprised the test results showed I answered question 70. incorrectly, as I had A. on my written sheet. Oh well, mistakes happen. I deliberated on question 33., as I would have put A., but for the part of after every session. The book on page 124 says it should be done after the first 3 or 4 sessions and thereafter check in after major changes.

Deborah Ernst

The textbook, Medicine Hands was incredibly engaging. It renewed my pride and passion for my profession. I am greatful for the opportunity to engage in this material. Thank you!

Tamara Jorgensen

Difficult subject both technically and emotionally. Those involved in this practice need to take the time to engage deeply in this topic. The author certainly did.

Gerard A. Roy, CMT, BCTMB

I did something I have never done before. After reading the intro to "Medicine Hands" 3rd Edition, I put away the CEU workbook and the pencils and the coffee. I decided to just read this book and get back to all that later. I am an LMT and an RN and spent years practicing massage through Hospice. Some of this Material I knew, some I did not. The course is thorough, research based and technical. It is also hear based- Loving and compassionate. I highly recommend this course. It will advance any LMT's knowledge base and insight. And the book will become an invaluable reference.

Ruth M. Donnellan, LMT, BCTMB

Excellent educational content. As a nurse/massage therapist the course provided answers to extremely important therapies that I encounter often.

MaryKay Ottenbacher, LMT

Because massage is a hands-on modality, sometimes online study is difficult. The informative nature of the material in this course makes it a very good choice for this format.

Sherry Dietchman, LMT

One of the best CE courses I have taken in years. Reminds me how important touch therapy is to those who suffer and how much I appreciate being a therapist.

Carla P. Plotkin, LMT, BCTMB

Very interesting read. I definitely plan to reread to retain additional information. This is a field that I feel many therapists are afraid of, but is the basis of what we should be doing in our normal massage therapy practice.

Betsy Leslie, LMT, BCTMB

This course was really in depth and easy to read. I really enjoyed the information provided through this text. I look forward to sharing with my fellow colleagues. I will also not only continue to complete my CEU's with this provider, but will tell me fellow MT's about it as well. Sincerely, Happy Therapist. :)

Tara Coultas, LMT

I have more respect and empathy for both caregivers and patients than I did before. Very reflective study experience. Thank you!

Karen R. LaLonde, LMT

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Learning Objectives

  1. Identify the current paradigm shift in massaging persons who have cancer.
  2. Recognize at least four key factors regarding massage and metastasis.
  3. List the four specific variables in research related to massage for people who have cancer.
  4. Identify at least three potential benefits of bodywork for cancer patients.
  5. Recognize the common short-term and long-term side effects of conventional cancer treatments.
  6. List the essential elements involved in gloving.
  7. Describe the adjustments necessary to make a bodywork session less demanding for the client.
  8. Identify how bodywork can strengthen the vital organs, immune function and psychological response for clients who have cancer.
  9. Describe how massage can give comfort in the final stages of life.
  10. List at least three of the recommendations for giving bodywork to caregivers in the home.
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Sample Text


The three organs that are most affected by the toxic by-products of cancer treatment are Liver, Kidney, and Spleen (due to its relationship to the lymphatic system - the body's sewer system.) It will also be these three organs that are the focus of detoxification, as well as any other organ that seems to have suffered the most during treatment. For instance, some patients were most distressed by constipation. When this is the case, the massage plan should include attention to the Intestines. For other chemo patients, skin rashes were the most severe side effect. For this, the bodywork plan would include Lung. Some patients had diarrhea as an ongoing symptom. The therapist would then work with Kidney, Liver, Intestines and integrate Spleen into the session because this is the organ that is out of balance when moisture presents where it should not be." (Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer by Gayle MacDonald, M.S., L.M.T., 2007, p.136)

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Sample Test Question

Three organs are most affected by the toxic by-products of cancer treatment and are therefore the focus of detoxification for a massage plan. These three organs are

  1. liver, kidney and spleen
  2. lung, diaphragm and liver
  3. spleen, stomach and heart
  4. liver, spleen and intestines
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