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How the spa industry is evolving in its approach to cancer care

October has famously become Breast Cancer Awareness Month - a time for highlighting the risk factors and warning signs of breast cancer in a collective effort to help catch it early and raise funds to better understand and treat this pernicious illness.

breasts - breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer statistics in the UK

Statistics from Breast Cancer Now show that currently in the UK:

  • One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 minutes
  • Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year
  • Breast cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the past 40 years
  • Breast cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death
  • Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in women under 50

The wellness industry and cancer

In the wellness industry, cancer is a topic of much discussion. Unsurprisingly, given its pervasive nature. The Global Wellness Summit monitors trends and advancements in cancer care and prevention. One of these trends - the one that we are extremely passionate about, is improving the availability of spa treatments that can be adapted to anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis so as to prevent anyone from being turned away from spas.

This is something you will have heard us talk a lot about over the years. To recap - historically, spas have usually had a policy of not providing treatments to anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis, even if the cancer is long gone. It’s not because they wanted to be unkind - far from it. It has been because the knowledge and training was not available for therapists to be sure they would not cause harm to vulnerable clients. There has been a lot of misinformation permeating through the industry over the years, and the net result was an industry wide approach that simply avoided the topic.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple, and turning people away from spas during a difficult time in their lives caused a lot of upset. Spa guests felt ostracised, and spa therapists felt as though they were acting in total contradiction to their professional purpose - to nurture and provide care. The good news is that training is now available through highly informed organisations like Jennifer Young Training, and others promoted through the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care (SATCC).

“I firmly believe that a national standards authority for touch in cancer care is a revolutionary step for spas, therapists and most importantly consumers.”

Sue Harmsworth, SATCC Founder

The key to change has been a number of different things. For one, the likes of Jennifer Young have worked to create training that allows therapists to get insurance coverage to treat cancer patients. Some of the most important factors in the industry-wide changes have been:


Education of therapists to understand risk assessments for cancer patients, as well as appropriate products and touch treatment protocols to suit the different stages of cancer and cancer treatment.


It’s important for spa guests to be aware of the reasons behind different treatments and products following a cancer diagnosis, to make sure you get the most benefit from treatments. Historically, guests would often omit that information from their consultations, and the result would a treatment that didn’t suit their needs or may be too intense.


It’s not necessarily about having different spa treatments, but giving therapists the tools to adapt spa treatments to the needs of individuals.


This is part of a wider movement in the spa and wellness industry to recognise that treatments and therapies need to be adapted to the individual and their needs at any given time - after all, we all change over the years (days and weeks too!)

The role of spas following a cancer diagnosis

While a spa experience is never going to change a cancer diagnosis or prognosis, it can play a powerful role in supporting an individual during and after treatment. Aside from anything else, it’s a period of time that can allow individuals to feel more like themselves, to get back in touch with their own bodies, and to experience the power of a kind touch.

Research from Jennifer Young also shows that those who experience oncology massage can also experience other benefits too:

Short-term benefits of oncology massage include:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced stress
  • Less depression
  • Eased general fatigue
  • Reduced motivation fatigue
  • Less emotional fatigue
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure
  • A decrease in physical discomfort and mood disturbance

Long-term benefits of oncology massage include:

  • Reduced depression
  • Increased urinary dopamine
  • Increased serotonin values
  • Increased natural killer cell numbers and lymphocytes
  • Reduced mood disturbances and perceived stress levels (specifically in breast cancer patients)

For our own part, we have worked, and continue to work alongside some of the most exceptional people in the spa industry to make sure that individuals have access to therapists and spas with the qualifications to adapt treatments to their needs at all stages of the cancer journey. Knowledge, information and support continues to evolve, as do all areas of cancer knowledge, information and support. We continue to strive to be a part of that.

If you would like to find out which spas provide oncology touch treatments, contact our team or visit our Safe Hands For Cancer collection, where packages have been created with care, support and discretion in mind.


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