Massage Today
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
June, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 06

The Society for Oncology Massage Makes Its Debut

By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS

The Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM) was launched in April 2008, along with an extensive Web site. The society's vision to "ease the journey through cancer and beyond for patients, family members and caregivers" was established over one year of work by its founding members.

The society's mission statement includes the following: "S4OM is grounded in a philosophy of compassion and service. We are focused on connecting cancer patients, their families and their caregivers with skilled oncology massage therapists."

Although it had been a shared dream for many years, the society finally began to take shape in May 2007 at the first Oncology Massage Healing Summit, a conference in Toledo, Ohio. I wrote about this conference in the August 2007 issue of Massage Today ( It was the first gathering in North America of massage therapists working with people with cancer. While there, therapists were able to network, envision, delegate and begin work on the society infrastructure in earnest. 

The society initially was envisioned to meet the pressing need for a qualified oncology massage therapist locator service. People with cancer and their loved ones have been in search of massage therapists trained in the specifics of massage for people with cancer, and therapists have moved well beyond the old myth in massage therapy contraindicating massage and cancer. Instructors in oncology massage provided these referrals to consumers and health care providers around the country. 

As the society took shape, it began to meet other needs as well. A full list of resources is available on the society Web site, The Web site serves as a "watering hole" where therapists, health care providers, patients and caregivers can gather and exchange resources and support of their work. Some of the key resources provided by the society are described here.

A massage therapist locator service. Through the find-a-therapist feature on the Web site, people can access massage therapists for themselves and their loved ones all around the country. These massage therapists have training and experience working with cancer patients. This allows for several stepped-up levels of service. Members have training and experience in adapting massage therapy to the common signs, symptoms and complications of cancer. Finally, members adapt massage therapy to cancer treatments, which often have stronger effects on the body than cancer itself.

Education for patients, health care providers and the public. The society offers many resources including answers to frequently asked questions about massage and cancer, a bibliography of massage and cancer research, media coverage of massage and cancer, and a list of hospitals incorporating massage therapy in oncology support. There are links to therapists' Web sites as well. Each of these lists, along with the list of qualified massage therapists, is expected to grow in the coming months as membership expands. 

Support for massage therapists. Through its Web site, the Society for Oncology Massage provides standards of practice; notices of upcoming events; a medical history form for use with people with cancer; instructors and trainings; and information about how to join the society. A newsletter is also in the offing. The idea is for therapists to find a center of support for their work with other therapists.

These and many other resources await therapists, consumers and others who tap into the society's Web site. The society's first president, Meg Robsahm, writes eloquently about the society's past year of development and its bright future. "We have developed a solid framework for professional growth. We are incorporated and our tax-exempt 501(c)3 status is pending. Our Web site is full of resources and continues to expand. We have grappled with the definition and scope of oncology massage. We have crafted a standards of practice that speaks to the exceptional quality of care our clients can expect. We continue to discover new ideas that we want to realize for sustained growth as a profession and as an organization. A major priority is to expand and publicize our locator service so clients living with cancer can find one or more trained oncology massage therapists nearby. ... Your Board is invested in our profession and confident that our Society will help countless people living with cancer to find compassionate, skilled massage care. ... [Join the society] and ride the wave of an emerging community of therapists with giving hands and open hearts."

From the burgeoning literature and the growing acceptance of massage therapy in oncology settings, and now this society, it's clear that now is an exciting time to be doing this work.

Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line