As cancer continues to affect the quality of life for residents on the Mid Shore, Shore Regional Cancer Center is partnering with Shore Health System’s Center for Integrative Medicine to develop new services to address the needs of cancer patients. Within the past three years, specialties have emerged within certain modalities of complementary medicine, including massage therapy, acupuncture and guided imagery, which are proving to be effective in helping cancer patients cope with their diseases.
Locally, licensed massage therapists, Colin Perry and Stephanie Latham at Shore Health System’s Center for Integrative Medicine, have acquired specialty certifications in order to better assist cancer patients in their treatment and recovery. Both are nationally certified in therapeutic massage.Colin Perry, LMT, CLT, who has been practicing massage since 2007 completed a 157-hour certification program in Complete Decongestive Therapy at the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy in 2011. This modality enables her to perform manual lymph drainage, addressing the medical needs of cancer survivors, as well as people suffering from chronic pain, migraines, and allergies. The therapists also work with Shore Health System’s Wound Center to help patients with chronic lymphedema.
Perry comments, “Lymphatic massage can help cancer patients with pre-treatment, helping their immune system to accept the treatment; during treatment, to help maintain the immune system; and post-treatment, to help the immune system flush the chemotherapy chemicals out of the body. It can be used with all types of cancers, including breast, colon, tongue and throat cancers.”
Perry explains that cancer survivors often suffer from lymphedema because lymph nodes are often removed in cancer surgeries and the body is not able to absorb the excess lymph fluid, thus causing lymphedema. Swelling from lymphedema may cause pain, discomfort, loss of motion and/or function associated with the affected limb, poor body image, and increased risk of infection. Manual lymph drainage helps manually drain the excess lymph fluid to reduce the swelling associated with lymphedema. This is common among breast cancer patients who may have several lymph nodes removed during surgery.
The Center for Integrative Medicine has begun a new collaboration with Shore Regional Cancer Center’s innovative CARES program. Cancer Recovery & Survivorship Program (CARES), a formalized pathway to cancer rehabilitation, puts patients in touch with support groups, community resources and services for healthier living – including the Center’s massage and acupuncture services.
Stephanie Latham, LMT, has been practicing massage since 2005. She is also trained in oncology massage and is a certified member of the Society for Oncology Massage. She completed over 50 hours in oncology massage training and uses massage to support her patients physically and emotionally as they move through cancer treatment into survivorship.
She comments, “There is a misconception that you can’t have massage if you have cancer. Massage is safe for someone with cancer when the proper techniques are used by a trained therapist. Oncology massage is the adaptation of massage to safely nurture the body, mind and spirit of anyone dealing with cancer. Massage is not only safe, it is beneficial for anyone dealing with the side effects of treatment, such as insomnia, depression, fatigue, bone pain and neuropathy.”
For cancer survivor Beth Hurley of Hurlock, an employee of Shore Health System’s Rehabilitation Services Department, the Center for Integrative Medicine helped her in 2012 during her treatment for stage three colon cancer. Hurley reached out to Perry and Latham as she faced severe symptoms from her chemotherapy, including neuropathy in her hands and feet, lymphedema, and nausea.
She comments, “They really helped my inner spirit and helped me cope with the symptoms from the chemotherapy. When I left my appointment at the Center, all of the anxiety from the chemotherapy went away and I felt relaxed. Mentally, I couldn’t have done it without their support. I was even able to work every day through my treatments.” Hurley has continued with her massage even though her treatments are done, getting maintenance treatments every month, which she thinks are well worth it in her continued recovery.
Latham reflects, “Oncology massage is the most rewarding work I have ever done. It is wonderful helping people with cancer live their day- to-day lives. The greatest compliment I have ever received was from a cancer patient who said I helped her feel normal again.”
Monika Armbruster, L. Ac., M. Ac., Clinical Acupuncture Specialist, who oversees the Center for Integrative Medicine, adds, “Our services are growing since we opened in 2000. Our commitment to meeting the needs of the community is evidenced by our massage therapists taking the extra courses needed to enrich their practices, while enhancing the well-being of our community. The Center can offer clients an interdisciplinary approach, providing complementary services to achieve their optimal health.”
For further information about Shore Healthy System’s Center for Integrative Medicine, contact them at 410-770-9400.