Cancer patients are still being turned away from spas, but it doesn’t have to be that way

At Beauty Despite Cancer, we continue to hear reports where individuals who are being treated for cancer or who have had cancer, are being turned away from spas and spa treatments.

Where once upon a time, refusing to provide spa treatments to cancer patients was a matter of safety, this is no longer the case. That refusal can hit particularly hard when you’re already have so much to deal with and think about.

Debbie from Me Time Holistics, said: “When I got my diagnosis my husband got me a treatment and we both went along and of course they refused to treat me. I had just been hit by this truck of a diagnosis and I said, ‘can you not even paint my nails?’ and they wouldn’t even do that. Hubby ended up having the massage while I sat in the waiting room with tears streaming down my face feeling like an awful leper of some kind […] I felt absolutely wretched when I came out of there and that was a five-star hotel.” 


In the past, the spa industry didn’t know enough to be confident that spa treatments wouldn’t cause harm. Misinformation ran riot about the damage that could be caused by a massage and insurers wouldn’t cover therapists when treating cancer patients, even if the cancer had long-since gone. Meanwhile, training gave therapists an almost traumatic level of fear about even touching a cancer patient.

The decision of whether a spa business should knowingly provide touch treatments to anyone who had a cancer diagnosis was almost non-existent. It was dangerous for the client, the business, and the therapist.

Today however, there is appropriate training available, allowing treatments to be tailored to individual needs, and supporting therapists in recognising increased risk factors for vulnerable clients. Rather than causing harm, touch therapies can provide relief, care, and support on a wide variety of levels. Benefits include, but are not limited to, lower blood pressure, better sleep and general tension relief.

Natalie Calway

Natalie Calway, who experienced spa treatments following her melanoma diagnosis said: “I have never been one to have a regular skin care regime until I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2018. Treatment played havoc with my skin, so I started to ensure that I put my skin care high up on my list. I had found previously that some beauty salons would not allow me to have a massage as they were worried about spreading the cancer. Something my oncologist said was completely over the top and not backed by any evidence. I was free to have massages, especially as it helped my mental health. It's no secret on my Instagram that I suffer with terrible anxiety related to my cancer. I can't tell you how much better I feel after a massage, or if I’ve treated myself to some pampering at home. If my hair is nice and my skin feels smooth, then I feel so much better in myself. I treat myself to a massage every couple of weeks and it really helps with the chronic pain I have suffered with since my treatment started.”

As of 2015 Cancer Research UK has updated its statistics surrounding cancer in the UK. It stated that at least one in two people were likely to get cancer. That was changed from the previously well-known one-in-three statistic for lifetime cancer risk. Furthermore, while cancer was historically considered to be an age-related disease, today the rates of diagnosis in younger people are also on the rise. In 2020, a study of cancer trends among adolescents and young adults in the USA reported a 30% increase in cancer diagnoses among people aged 15 to 39 between 1973 and 2015. That makes the issue of turning individuals away more prevalent than ever.

It is time to dispel the belief that cancer and massage are mutually exclusive. The training for therapists is out there and readily available for the spa industry to embrace. The sister company of Beauty Despite Cancer, The Jennifer Young Training School provides therapist training that supports and is suitable for treating cancer patients, founded in science and exceeding industry standards. Alongside our specialist skincare products, we have created a dedicated Spa & Therapist Finder to make it easy for anyone affected by cancer to access therapists who are trained in oncology touch treatments.

Sam Reynolds

Sam Reynolds, who found massage to be a vital part of emotional health during her cancer journey: "After having three breast cancer diagnoses spanning 12 years, from age 26, I have come to realise that being given a breast cancer diagnosis can be less about the physical challenge and more about the emotional resilience. It becomes essential to focus on the things you can control. Having something practical to do to keep grounded and connected is like an anchor. Putting our own needs to the top of the priority list can set us up mentally, because we are proactively helping ourselves and putting things in place to support ourselves, in the way we want and need. Receiving a Jennifer Young massage as a cancer patient felt as though I was doing all of the above.”

To find an oncology touch therapy trained spa therapist or spa destination near you, you can use the Beauty Despite Cancer Spa & Therapist Finder.

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