Facials, steam treatments, massage etc

A very kind friend has given me a gift voucher for a beauty salon. I’m waiting for the kids to go back to school before booking myself in. The problem I have is that I’m not sure what treatments are and aren’t ok.

For instance, I fancied a “Dermalogical Facial” which is described as “Chinese face mapping, steam and double cleanse, exfoliation, face, neck, shoulder and scalp massage, specialist masque, conditioning spritz and moisturiser.”

As I’ve had double mx and ongoing reconstruction plus lymph node removal, I guess the shoulder massage bit should be missed out. As for steam, is that ok or not? I get some hot flushes from Tamoxifen and more so since having my ovaries removed last June, so would I be better avoiding the steam bit as well? I think saunas/steam are supposed to be avoided if you’ve had lymph nodes out. Would I be better asking for a facial that involves no steam and no massage at all? Or is that most of the point of a facial??? (I’ve never had one before)

The other treatments are all unsuitable for various reasons - tanning is out because I don’t want to strip off, hair removal treatments sound more like torture than treat, body massage treatments are out etc etc.

I suppose I can just say don’t do too much steam and don’t massage below my neck but I’m kind of not wanting to say that because I don’t really want to have to disclose my medical history. When we recently stayed at a hotel with a pool, I had to fill in a form about medical history (because the pool was part of a gym with personal trainers etc) and it was like having it thrown back in my face again. I only wanted to swim a few lengths! Daft I know but I couldn’t work out whether to lie on the form and tick all the “No” boxes or to tell myself it didn’t matter who knew and fill it in honestly although this made me uncomfortable (I did the latter in the end).


I know exactly what you mean about having to disclose medical histories. Have you thought about a pedicure or manicure - you wouldnt need to tell them anything about yourself medically. These would both be safe and very relaxing. The pedicure would involve a foot massage which should be fine and its not too personal either. A manicure is fine as long as you dont have an arm massage - I think these are optional, but hand massage is safe and very relaxing too. I think the point of these treatments is that you really relax and enjoy them. If you are worried that you might be doing some harm, it will be counterproductive. Hope this helps.


Hi Nicola, Do they do an Indian head massage? I had one after my last chemo and it was divine. She said that she often cant do it properly because people dont want oil on their hair, I had no hair so she got stuck in. She also massaged my face and neck.

Some people say that you shouldnt get massages when you are having BC treatment due to helping circulate any nasty cells but I think that anything that makes you feel better is a good thing. Pedicures including a foot and leg massage are lovely too.
Lots of love Andrea xx

Hi Nicola,

I booked an Indian head massage as I’d heard they were so relaxing, but the therapist wouldn’t do it when I explained my surgery was 3 months ago. She said it could possibly move lymph cells around - sounded like balderdash to me and I thought it was an excuse and felt unwelcome and was going to leave in a huff (!). Anyway she offered me Reiki which is a non invasive relaxation treatment and this was quite good but not what I was after really.

I’ve just joined a yoga class for women post op. At least I feel welcome there - everyone is very friendly and mostly further down the recovery road than me which I always think is encouraging to see. Our local cancer charity (BigC in Norwich) offers 4 sessions of massage or reflexology to cancer patients and/or their main carer. Anything like that near you?. At least then you don’t have to worry about explaining your cancer treatment.

Hope you find a treatment to suit you.


Hi, speaking as abeauty therapist i would like to say a couple of things.
Nicola, please dont feel unconfortable disclosing any of your medical details - this is a big part of out training. The Dermalogica facial is lovely- great products, if i were you i would just say please dont massage/touch below this area (were ever you dont want her to go) on your neck and just ask for a short steam or to miss that bit out if you dont fancy it. It wont do any harm as its just on your arm that you shouldnt have it. The massage to shoulder neck area is only a light one and would be ok for you if you fancied it.Your therapist wont do anything that you feel unconforatble with as this defeats the whole point.
Can i just say that having a pedicure/manicure/waxing etc etc you would still have to disclose if you are on medication because people who are diabetics and on certain medication cant have certain treatments so dont think becuase its your feet it wont matter!
Also about the massage or indian head massage, your therapist was correct, you shouldnt have massage and some other treatments (such as reflexology) if you have had surgery within the last 6 months. Till about 10 or 15 years ago it was not alowed to give refleoxlogy to anyone having cancer treatment because the thought was it could spread cells round as it increases the lymphatic circulation, but about 10 years ago they decided that the theraputic benifit to cancer patients outweighed the tiny possible risk and say it could now be done.
So go and have your lovely treatments, dont worry about having to disclose medical details - infact i would worry more if they didnt ask! as that says more about the salons practise and staff training!

Hi to all

Pineapple, I didnt think about diabetes and feet - that is a very valid point. I think what i meant was it isnt so intrusive as a full body massage etc, but you are right, medical histories are needed. Interesting about reflexology and not to be done within 6 months of surgery. My therapist ( I love reflexology), started as soon as I had surgery, along with acupuncture to aid the healing process - I hope no harm has been done. Must say, my surgery was only small, not a mastectomy and no nodes taken. Complimentary therapies seem to be such a grey area in terms of evidence base, but they are so wonderful to have.

I have been continuing to have body masssage, head massage, reiki and reflexology throughout my treatment (WLE and sentinel nodes removal, chemo, rads and now Herceptin) with the blessing of my medical team. The body massage was done very gently while I was at the early stages of treatment, by someone who is qualified in massage for cancer patients. There has been no suggestion that it would cause any problems and it has all been very relaxing during such a stressful period! I can’t understand why we all get told such different things.

AnneG, i know what you mean about being told different things. The thing with massage is, i suppose, because it increases blood and lymph flow then
a -after an op the blood in your body is focused on the site area (much the same as if you have just had a meal the blood will concentrate in that area to help digestion etc) so if you are doing something that potentially takes the blood away from a certain are ie site of the op then you could be interfering with the healing and also could potentialy cause an infection. Now whether this would happen or not is the 6 million dollar question. I suppose its not 100% safe as there is a slight possibilty.
b - If anything were to happen to the client then i suppose the client could always blame it on the treatment. So of course its the insurance aspect.
When we are trained, i dont mean these one day courses but the proper 2 year or so courses - i couldnt even start my Reflexology unless i had done and passed an anatomy and physiology course - we are taught these health & saftey rules and regs and have to abide by them. Now, if a therapist wants to preform a treatmen that doesnt conform thats her choice but she is leaving herself wide open for being sued. We are taught that if anyone takes medication and has had an op we must have a letter from their doctor.
So, if a therapist asks for a letter etc please remember she is doing what she has been trained (if the course was any good) to do.
I hope this was helpful.

Hi ladies
I think its down to your oncologist and what their views are. I had reflexology during my chemo with his blessing but one session was done by a therapist who wanted to see a letter of consent, the other sessions were done by a therapist who actually works for the Christie so she was approved to treat cancer patients. During treatment I decided to do a course on Indian Head Massage. Again I got permission from my ONC, through the BC nurse, however I was told I could give but not receive the treatment (despite having some rotten days I managed to qualify) I too before being able to give the treatments had to study anatomy and physiology. I was then made aware that Christies do a two day course for therapists where they are given guidance on how treatments need to vary for cancer patients. If in doubt I would speak to your consultant or Breast Nurse. Dermalogical face mapping is very good and the products are wonderful. I too got a voucher for some treatments and when the girls go back to school I am going for a pedicure and manicure, bliss.
Hope this helps

Thank you for all the replies which have been very helpful. I think the point about it being counterproductive if I’m worried is very valid. I was treated at Christies and on the first day of my chemo, I was given a very light massage of neck and shoulders by one of their complementary therapy team so I think what I’ll do is contact the complementary therapy department and ask them what they would and wouldn’t recommend.

Thanks again,