Refused massage to member because she has cancer

Massage Envy on Markham in Little Rock, Arkansas canceled a massage on my mother-in-law because the masseuse didn’t want to touch her because MIL has cancer. And they actually said it like that, which humiliated her and greatly hurt her feelings. The company is standing behind the masseuse, siting company policy but they have been giving her massages there for over a year and the location knew she has cancer. AND they won’t cancel her contract or give her money back. So there’s gonna be a lawsuit. This same location has also cancelled on my SIL without bothering to call her and waiting to tell her until she drives 2.5 hours to the location for the appointment.

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  • Mary

    Ok, so they way they did this was completely wrong. They should have been more sincere about it, but as a massge therapist myself, I wouldn’t want to work on her either. There are so many things that can be stirred up in the body when someone has cancer, and then that will be an even bigger lawsuit. If she has not had any chemo treatments in 6 months or more, and she has a doctors note saying it’s okay to massage then fine. But as a client, you also need to take precautions when dealing with cancer. That’s like coming to get a massage when your sick. We can give you pneumonia… I have no clue why clients decide to come when their sick, it’s disrespectful on so many levels. And when your dealing with cancer, there are many people who do not want to worsen her condition. So you may think she was being humiliated, but there are actually some people in this world who care about the well being of others… Think about that.

    • Buzz Maxwell

      Mary, I believe your heart is in the right place but there is no clinical evidence to back what you are saying. Cancer is not something that can get stirred up or aggitated easily. The American Cancer Society heralds massage as one of the best supplemental therapies afforded to a cancer patient/survivor. The touch of a compassionte therapist can be rewarding on both the patients mental and physical recovery. Taking your position there are some guidlines that would tell us not to apply heat or direct pressure to a tumor site. The final decision should always rest on the informed client/patient.

      • Eddie

        The final decision MUST always rest on the doctor or primary health care provider who has diagnosed and or treats the cancer — they have the ultimate authority to contraindicate or recommend massage therapy.

        Competent therapists will err on the side of caution and require a doctor’s note — cancer is complex and a patient might not best articulate the condition, as well an LMT not understand how and why it is contraindicated.

        So it’s possible the other therapist(s) doing massage for over a year were incompetent — that’s what should bother / scare you.

        • Buzz Maxwell

          As you see a cancer survivor, I can tell you that all treatment for cancer rests on the patient’s cosent of the cancer team…if I say no I mean no and if I choose alternative treatment methods, that is my choice. Read up on your own representative organuzation’s stand…

          • Eddie

            With all due respect to your subjective experience, you are in the wrong on this one. It is not solely the consent of the client or patient, but has everything to do with the liability and or competence of the therapist.

            Rheumatoid arthritis, cancer that has spread to the bone, spine injuries, osteoporosis, or other bone diseases could be worsened by physical manipulation, thus should avoid physical manipulation or deep pressure. Manipulation of a bone that is already weakened by cancer metastasis could result in a bone fracture. Some could have (unknown) allergic reactions to lotions or oils used during massage, and is common among patients receiving radiation treatment.

            Patients with low blood platelet counts (from chemo or pathology) or who are taking blood-thinning medication can be susceptible to bruising or other blood-related complications

            Tissue manipulation in the area of a tumor might increase the risk that cancer cells will travel to other parts of the body. It might be prudent for cancer patients to avoid massage near
            tumors and lumps that could be cancerous until otherwise confirmed or indicated for massage (by the health care team treating the cancer).

            People with cancer and chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease should consult their physicians before undergoing any type of therapy that involves manipulation of
            joints and muscles

            This is not only my professional opinion and advice, but it is grounded in everything stated by NCBTMB, AMTA, AMA and ACA.

            Beyond this, some areas / states would require a certification in Oncological massage, and or it be an avenue of a Medical Massage Certified therapist.

            Sometimes it isn’t about money lost or anything personal — some therapists simply care enough to avoid any risk of harming a client / patient.

      • Yvonne-Michelle Kirksey Lopez

        I’m a massage therapist as well and I agree with mary…cancer is a CONTRAINDICATION….no is no and and no buts…however you’re right about it being beneficial but only if you have education in that area which is not covered in the standard education…it is over and above and is called medical massage which is another certification…so the therapist and Mary are right about not touching her…all she needed was a written letter from her doctor…and btw with cancer you work as part of a health team not stand alone

      • inquisitor

        It is up to the therapist to decide if they wish to work on someone with cancer. And saying no for that reason is perfectly acceptable and justifiable…period.

        People and their families are just lawsuit crazy these days.
        Better to be cautious unless you can take the potential financial hit when blamed for something going wrong.

        Probably best to find a therapist that specializes in this thing and is perhaps employed by a hospital.

        • Buzz Maxwell

          If i have throat cancer, how is massage therapy being witheld from me indicated?

          • inquisitor

            This is stated on my posted fee schedule in my clinic…

            I, as a license therapist, reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason.

            Case closed.

      • Tampamassager

        Chemotherapy is poison put into the body through infusion or pills, which spreads systemically throughout the bloodstream in the body. Many chemos can be found in bodily fluids, like urine or sweat. Many therapists do not want to take the chance of getting sick through contact with the fluids. The profession is very hard, and depletes your energy enough without taking risks like that. Patients tend to be offended by a therapist using gloves because they are often not really concerned about the therapist’s well being. Many think it is best just to avoid it altogether. My wife was lied to and coerced into massaging a cancer patient that was on a highly toxic form of chemo which cause a complete loss of hair. My wife got ill for two days. She never returned to that job.

  • Alexa

    Mary your inept answer needs to be deleted. But cant argue with some one with IQ <50. How about give the lady her money back???

    • LMT

      I am a massage therapist and the therapist had every right to refuse to treat a client with cancer. It is called a “contraindication” in our line of work. A contraindication can have different levels. If a person has a cut, then working on that area is contraindicated. If the person still requests you to work on that area, we have the right (and definitely should) to refuse to work on that area. The same goes for certain illnesses such as cancer or heart problems. Also, with certain medications, massage is contraindicated. The bottom line is that our job is to make you feel better. Cancer still has a lot of things we don’t fully understand how it works in the body. Massage was once thought to make it worse because it moves fluid around using the lymphatic system. The general idea is that massage could possibly cause the cancer to spread. Overall, it is contraindicated unless you have a doctors note or significant time has passed. Also, if it is terminal and you bring in a doctors note, the massage is then considered palliative care. In your situation, the therapist was in the right, but the front desk should have handled it better. Even though it is easy to see what the correct thing to do is, we are all human. This establishment did the right thing, but in the wrong way. As far as her account goes, I do not deal with front desk issues, but I empathize with her on that matter. It should have been handled better. Just a note: Just as every client has the right to refuse to be worked on by a therapist, we also have the right to refuse to treat a client based off of behavior or medical issue.

  • Liz

    It is Massage Envy’s policy, and many other massage clinics, that if a patient has had cancer, recently had cancer, or is undergoing any radiation or chemo treatments, that they need a doctor’s note that massage is safe for a person in that health condition. It is the same that you need a doctor’s note if you’re pregnant. Not very hard to figure out, and your lawsuit will go nowhere. They do it to protect the client from possible injury.

    • TinaDexler

      Finally we agree on something.

  • Yvonne-Michelle Kirksey Lopez

    The only thing I have to say is that as a massage therapist I wouldn’t work on someone with cancer either….it’s because you need specific education to massage someone with cancer…it is a contraindication and needs a doctor to sign off on the patient getting the massage…as a therapist you must protect yourself against law suits because if anything happened to your MI then the therapist could be sued…like anything else shit rolls downhill and I know you don’t think ME will take responsibility do you? They make a therapist keep malpractice insurance so that if anyone want to sue then the therapist gets the brunt…so there would be no way I’d work work on her…the therapist did right but she shouldve been turned down day one unless her doctor okayed it in writing

  • JoAnne Powers

    For your info, the National Institute of Health says it is an old wive’s tale that massage can spread cancer. They say it is not contra-indicated except that you should not press on an obvious tumor.