Healing Spas Now Focus on Cancer

Healing Spas Now Focus on Cancer

If your stress level is 4 or above, it’s time for massage

Illustration Credit: Open to Possibilities by Donna Grethen

Decades ago in downtown Manhattan, greeted by a whir of chimes, a lounge spun of silk, abuzz with ginger tea, I floated into my first spa massage. I had arrived feeling well and left feeling even better. But had I been a seriously stressed cancer patient, I might have been seen as a liability and turned away—forced to settle for prayer beads and a candle from the gift shop. Fortunately, change is in the scented air. Nonprofit groups such as Spa4ThePink and Wellness for Cancer are providing standardized cancer-focused trainings for spas and wellness practitioners.

As a psychotherapist and former copywriter, I admire Spa4ThePink’s tagline: Changing the healing journey for those “who happen to have cancer.” The upshot being: let’s not make cancer the defining identity and journey of a client—this is simply where the client is right now, and we’ll adjust to create the most comfortable spa journey.

With mandatory Patient Distress Screenings going into effect at all major cancer centers in 2015 (a stress level rating of 4 out of 10 or higher is considered cause for action), health professionals will be looking to refer clients to “cancer aware” spas and wellness facilities to help fight the disease.

As we know in the psychotherapy world, the idea that feelings are discrete, autonomous happenings is an illusion. If a psychotherapist, body therapist, or esthetician is anxious, the client won’t be able to let go. So Wellness for Cancer engages trainers like Felix Lopez, a former Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher, to help address the concerns of practitioners working with cancer patients. The more secure a spa or wellness facility is in its relationship with medically challenged clients, the more the spa can work its healing magic.

Wellness for Cancer has recently partnered with Spafinder Wellness 365 to create a list of locales that have been certified as “Cancer Aware Basic” or “Cancer Aware Comprehensive.” (Businesses or practitioners can go to to find out more about the verification process.) The “cancer aware” categories are expected to be launched and searchable on the Spafinder Wellness 365 site in the first quarter of 2015.

While the spa industry is embracing the special needs of cancer patients, the medical field is also embracing the healing powers of spa. This past summer the famed Mayo Clinic added a full menu of spa services to its healing repertoire.

Additional Resources

To purchase a spa I Care eGift card, go to

To find the appropriate massage for a medical condition, go to

To help children explore wellness services, go to

For the latest on the Hospital-Based Massage Network, go to or email [email protected].

For a feel-good makeover, go to

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