There is an old myth that massage therapy and other skin care treatments can encourage cancer metastasis. While this statement is untrue, what exactly is metastasis? Metastasis is the manner by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. Twenty to 30 percent of people who are initially diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer, also called stage IV breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer can occur five, 10, or even 15 years after the original diagnosis and even after successful treatments. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this type of cancer as most treatments are directed at controlling the spread of the disease and increasing the quality of life.
Metastatic cancer always has the same name as the primary cancer, so breast cancer that has spread to the brain and forms a tumor is called metastatic breast cancer, not brain cancer. Physicians are able to see when cancer metastasis has occurred because the original cancer cells and the metastatic cancer cells will share molecular similarities. There are some cases in which physicians find the metastasized cancer but are unable to find the primary cancer. However, it is not possible to have a metastasized tumor without a primary cancer.
With breast cancer, the most common sites of metastasis are the bone, brain, lung, and liver, although cancers can spread to a number of different body parts. There are also several ways that cancer spreads throughout the body, including invading normal tissue, moving through the walls of nearby lymph or blood vessels, and moving through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. The ability of cancer cells to successfully metastasize depends on a number of factors, but not all cells have the ability to do so on their own.
While it is not possible to spread cancer through massages, professionals should always take caution when treat clients with breast cancer. It is always best to have the proper training and to stay within the realm of what the client is comfortable with.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. (n.d.). 13 Facts about Metastatic Breast Cancer.
National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Metastatic Cancer.