CANCER patients are being routinely turned down for massage therapy over fears treatments encourage the disease to spread, despite there being ‘no evidence’ of a link, according to a Glasgow training school.

Some colleges in the West of Scotland are continuing to teach students that treatments risk ‘spreading cancer’ and discouraging therapists from pursuing courses in oncology massage, despite the well documented benefits it offers such as pain and stress relief.

Rachel Holmes Black, who runs Glasgow School of Massage, said ‘most cancer patients’ had had the experience of being turned down for treatments, when it is simply down to a lack of training on the part of therapists.

Patients have reported being told, ‘We can’t touch you’ which has a negative impact on their mental wellbeing and recovery.

Most therapists will only take clients if they have obtained a GP letter, £35, creating a 'poverty barrier' to treatments, according to Rachel.

She runs the only Swedish massage diploma in Scotland that incorporates oncology massage and is also a therapist and trainer at Cancer Support Scotland, in Glasgow, which offers patients free treatments.

She said: “Cancer patients are getting excluded when they shouldn’t be excluded.

“Most cancer patients have had that happen to them and once it happens you might not go back.

“Patients are having to lie about having cancer.

“Adapted massage by a trained therapist is perfectly safe for someone with a cancer diagnosis and that is why it is now accepted by oncologists and nurses in cancer hospitals and cancer support centres nationally and internationally.

“There is huge issue with cancer poverty and GP letters costs about £35. If a patient's symptoms change, then they need another letter, and its another £35.

“It’s already costing them around £40 for a massage so it’s working out as a very expensive treatment.

“Often a verbal permission is enough, from their team."

While therapists should avoid treating patients for three weeks after having radiotherapy, clients can safety have massage while undergoing chemotherapy, which may help counter the side-effects.Training for therapists involves learning a simple routine with a lighter pressure, with adaptations depending on the type of cancer. Therapists may also be trained in lymphatic drainage.

She said: “If in doubt, check with their (cancer) team.

“If patients can’t have a full massage, there is always something you can offer someone, such as a hand or arm or scalp massage.”

Rachel is to host a training seminar for colleges in the Central Belt, on February 3 at her base in Maryhill and said the response from lecturers had been positive.

She said: “Many colleges and SQA are now changing their curriculum.

“It is changing but it’s going to take a while. People have been excluded for way too long.”