Skin, Lip and Body Care

Going Through Cancer? 5 Precautions to Take When Going to the Spa

+ CV Skinlabs Team

SpaBack in 2011, I posted about the importance of making sure that you go to a certified oncology esthetician if you’ve gone through cancer. Spa treatments like facials, massages, and body treatments can really help in your healing process, but you want to be sure you’re going to someone who understands the special needs of cancer survivors.

I attended a training course on oncology esthetics given by Morag Currin, pioneer of the Clinical Oncology Esthetics (COE) certification, and learned that particularly for survivors who have had their lymph nodes removed, the right massage techniques are critical. Now, in a recent article, Dr. Brian D. Lawenda reiterates the important things that survivors need to know before going to a spa.

Here’s a quick review of the key points.

1. Make sure your spa therapist is trained.

Morag offers regular training for oncology therapists, and there are other programs out there as well. The important thing is to make sure your therapist has training in doing spa treatments on cancer patients and survivors. Find a professional near you at the International Society of Oncology Estheticians or The Society for Oncology Massage.

2. Avoid heat and friction.

Spa treatments like deep tissue, Shiatsu, and sports massage that involve pressure and heat can potentially cause damage in areas of the body where you’re receiving radiation treatments, or where you’ve had recent surgery. Again, here’s why it’s important to go to someone who is trained about these things. They will know how to personalize your treatment.

3. Avoid germs at all costs.

Cancer fighters and survivors often have weakened immune systems. Your body has been fighting the disease and the treatments, leaving you vulnerable to infections. Make sure you go to a center that is especially careful about sanitation. Ask them to tell you how they disinfect the equipment and surfaces, and find out if they take the proper precautions for customers like yourself.

4. Ask about products.

Your best bet is to go to an organic spa that prides itself on using non-toxic, natural products. Your skin is more fragile during and after treatments, and you don’t want to compound any side effects by exposing yourself to harsh chemicals that may create unwanted reactions. Discuss with your esthetician the products he or she uses, and note that you prefer the most natural ingredients possible. Ask to see the bottles and the ingredient lists.

5. Stop anything that doesn’t feel right.

If anything hurts or feels uncomfortable, ask the therapist to stop. Discuss what is making you feel discomfort and see if the person is willing to make adjustments. If not, you have every right to leave.

Do you have other suggestions for making your spa experience safe and rewarding? Please share them with our readers.

Picture courtesy marin via


Brian D. Lawenda, “What Cancer Patients and Survivors Need to Know Before Going to a Spay,” Integrative Oncology Essentials, June 11, 2013,