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Massage Today
August, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 08

We Get Letters & E-Mail

By Editorial Staff

Editor's Note: Some letters have been edited for space and clarity.

Breast Massage and Scope-of-Practice Issues

Dear Mr.


I am a Florida-based licensed massage therapist and continuing education provider. One of the subjects that I teach is professional ethics and Florida law. I am confused by the advice you offered to female therapists in your July editorial (

If I understand your comments correctly, you are suggesting that massage therapists palpate the breast tissue of female clients with the intention of detecting cancerous lumps, and that you believe that massage therapists are better trained to detect cancer than trained doctors. I hope that I am wrong here.

I graduated from one of the top massage therapy schools in this country, and nothing in my training addressed how to detect cancer in someone's tissue! In addition, palpation with the intent to discover or diagnose disease does not fall under the scope of a massage therapist; (In Florida, at least) that is construed as practicing medicine. I read that portion of your column last weekend to 35 therapists attending an ethics/law continuing education workshop and asked for their thoughts on the matter. Many spoke up. All were shocked by your advice. One woman responded: "What's next? Do we ask men to bend over and cough while we palpate their testicles?"

Karen Ball

I read your July editorial, and I must say I was appalled at your suggestion in relation to women and breast cancer that "It makes sense that a massage therapist trained in the nuances of soft tissue will do a better job of regular examination than the physician you see once a year!" This statement is erroneous and suggests therapists go beyond the scope of practice of any massage therapist with basic massage training. You seem to insinuate that we are more skilled than a physician in detecting tumors and diagnosing cancer. This journalism is, at the least, irresponsible and misleading, and lessens the credibility of our profession. Please clarify your thoughts, if you will.

Jacqueline Landis Ferber
Instructor, Florida School of Massage
Gainesville, Florida

Cliff Korn responds:

Thank you for responding to my editorial, and thanks for reading!

I think you are reading more into my statement than was actually there; at least more than I intended to be there. I am certainly not suggesting that massage therapists palpate tissue with the intent of detecting anything more than tissue texture and feel. My statement relates to my belief that massage therapists are some of the most skilled palpation experts in the field, and regularly detect tissue concerns before our patients/clients do.

I was (and am) suggesting that female massage therapists regularly get massage from therapists specifically trained in breast massage to enhance their breast health. It is my opinion that palpation of tissue on a weekly or monthly basis by a practitioner with highly developed palpation skills will generate referrals to appropriate medical specialists in a more timely fashion that an annual physical exam.

While I believe all jurisdictions that regulate the practice of massage preclude diagnosis of anything more than contraindications, I am aware of very few that put breast massage, performed by a specifically trained practitioner (and with specific informed consent), out of the scope of practice of a massage therapist.

Cliff Korn, LMT
Editor, Massage Today

Blowing off Steam

Dear Editor:

I just wanted to vent. I am tired of reading wonderful articles concerning massage therapy and its benefits (in other publications) only to discover at the end of the article that readers are told that, in order to find a good massage therapist, they need to make sure the therapist is a member of the AMTA! I want to scream when I read this kind of stuff.

I refuse to become a member of the AMTA for various reasons, but it does not, in any way, make me any less qualified as a therapist than any that chose AMTA membership. Why is it that the AMTA is so involved in every aspect of our profession that they place themselves as the almighty authority on our qualifications? I find it extremely unfair for the AMTA to give the general public the impression a massage therapist is unworthy of the title unless they are a member of the AMTA. I earned my title and worked very hard to gain the professionalism that we share as massage therapists. I do not need the AMTA to give me what I have already proven and earned: Licensed Massage Therapist, and a mighty good one, I might add.

Robin L. Shope, LMT


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