First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

Portland, Oregon's Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine by Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Susan G Komen says massage is illegal?! An opportunity to educate!

A local non-profit invited me to set up my massage table at their booth at the upcoming Susan G. Komen conference in Portland, Oregon. When checking with the event coordinator, we received an interesting response.


I’m really not sure what is up with the leadership of Susan G. Komen these days. With the recent debacle over pulling funding for Planned Parenthood, then reversing the decision mere days later after the huge backlash, I question their approach in breast cancer awareness. Perhaps they are getting out of touch with the community.

They sure don’t seem to understand the massage profession. In Oregon, all licensed massage therapists must have a minimum of 500 hours of education and must pass written and practical exams. To maintain an LMT license, ongoing continuing education is required. And, we all need liability insurance to practice. Massage therapy is not illegal in Oregon… It’s regulated by the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists (OBMT) and a vibrant, active, caring community.

As a rare lymphoma survivor and licensed massage therapist with trainings in advanced myofascial techniques and oncology massage, I see this is a valuable opportunity and professional obligation to educate Susan G. Komen about the benefits of massage therapy and bodywork.

The AMTA recently came out with their 2012 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet.

The therapeutic benefits of massage continue to be researched and studied. Recent research has shown the effectiveness of massage for the following conditions:

• Cancer-related fatigue
• Low back pain
• Osteoarthritis of the knee
• Reducing post-operative pain
• Boosting the body’s immune system functioning
• Decreasing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
• Lowering blood pressure
• Reducing headache frequency
• Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
• Decreasing pain in cancer patients

Massage therapy is an amazing compliment to cancer care and survivorship. A highly trained licensed massage therapist can help ease cancer-related fatigue as well as decreasing pain in cancer patients. Massage can also diminish chemotherapy and radiation treatment-related side effects.

Bodywork is invaluable in cancer survivorship, reclaiming the body from the certainty of the medical community. The docs don’t often tell ya, it can take years to return to normal energy levels and function.

Do you agree with Susan G. Komen to exclude massage therapy from their breast cancer conference? How about we rally as a community and let Susan G. Komen know the benefits of massage! Please share your thoughts!

You can find Susan G. Komen’s contact page here.

Thanks for reading First of Nine! More bodywork geeking, photography, music and videos to come from Portlandia’s own massage and bodywork zine!

Hamid : )

If you’re just finding First of Nine, here are a few good places to dive in!
Disrupting the positive feedback loop of chronic pain
The four C’s of consciousness
Tensegrity principle and gene expression

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20 comments on “Susan G Komen says massage is illegal?! An opportunity to educate!

  1. Anna Mulholland
    March 8, 2012

    How odd. Important book alert: How We Do Harm by Otis Brawley, must read for all, but especially anyone with a recent cancer diagnosis.
    How We Do Harm exposes the underbelly of healthcare today—the overtreatment of the rich, the under treatment of the poor, the financial conflicts of interest that determine the care that physicians’ provide, insurance companies that don’t demand the best (or even the least expensive) care, and pharmaceutical companies concerned with selling drugs, regardless of whether they improve health or do harm.

    Dr. Otis Brawley is the chief medical and scientific officer of The American Cancer Society, an oncologist with a dazzling clinical, research, and policy career. How We Do Harm pulls back the curtain on how medicine is really practiced in America. Brawley tells of doctors who select treatment based on payment they will receive, rather than on demonstrated scientific results; hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that seek out patients to treat even if they are not actually ill (but as long as their insurance will pay); a public primed to swallow the latest pill, no matter the cost; and rising healthcare costs for unnecessary—and often unproven—treatments that we all pay for. Brawley calls for rational healthcare, healthcare drawn from results-based, scientifically justifiable treatments, and not just the peddling of hot new drugs.

  2. Darlene
    March 8, 2012

    Sorry about that, Hamid. They do seem to be loosing touch. I was involved with the Northwest Reiki Association and we’ve had Reiki booths at the last 3 or 4 expos they’ve sponsored. They certainly took our money quickly but then didn’t return phone calls or emails after that. Toni is an odd duck but most likely takes orders from someone even higher than her.

    As we are in a shift on the planet, those who do not serve for the highest good are being called out/revealed. I’ve read that not as much money as we think the Komen organization gets is actually used for cancer research. This could be a revelation of what is underneath. They have done some good work and have raised important awareness, but we for sure have seen their other side.

    If I ran an event like that, you’d be the first person I’d call!



  3. Fred E. Bailey
    March 8, 2012

    They are of course out of all touch and beyond redeeming. They never did reverse that Planned Parenthood decision, either. Even before the current round of foolishness, they listed very low among charitable foundations for the proportion of money they take for themselves in salary and the amount they spend, almost half, on advertisement (they call it spending to promote awareness) in order to drag in yet more multi-millions.

  4. Carrie Plummer
    March 8, 2012

    Hamid – this is indeed a bizarre situation. I am a Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN. We have an Integrated Health Center that provides massage as a MEDICAL treatment for lymphedema, musculoskeletal strain, neuropathic pain, etc… I recently had a friend, with stage IIIb breast cancer be prescribed a course of massage, by her oncologist, at the center with the LMT on staff. I’m sorry you ran into this as you were very well intentioned with your offer. I’m glad you are reaching out to educate people on the health benefits of massage. Good luck! Carrie

  5. TychaBrahe
    March 8, 2012

    You know what…dump them back. I am sure that a person with your skills and training can find somewhere else to be that day. Perhaps you could organize with some others in your professional community to donate your time in a fundraising for a local breast cancer support organization.

  6. gj
    March 8, 2012

    The truth is that the Komen Foundation doesn’t give a crap about women or BC. They’re all about high salaries for their execs. Screw ’em.

  7. Suzanne Thurston
    March 8, 2012

    I posted your article on Susan G. Komen’s Facebook page. If you look into their organization you might not want to be associated with them anyway. They appropriate less than 17% of the revenues to go to scienific research (can see for yourself …look at their 990s posted on their website). 2011 they brought in about 400 million and appropriated about 60 million to research. They’ve lost their way.
    Best wishes to you.!/susangkomenforthecure?sk=wall&filter=1

  8. Laura McFarland-Taylor
    March 8, 2012

    I’m not a fan of Komen, but I want to know what the rationale was – was it that they really thought this was sex-related (I mean, c’mon!), or was it truly a liability issue, for which the LMT having insurance would be irrelevant?

  9. Aaron Gustafson
    March 8, 2012

    Reminds me…

    Circa 2000, when I began doing Chair Massage in Portland I provided Massage for one work-group within an insurance company, and while attempting to open up the service to the rest of the company/work groups, was told “Sorry, it’s too much of a liability, plus any touch in the workplace is a violation of our Sexual Harassment Policy.”

    The Insurance Company? -The very same company that underwrites our professional liability policy for the AMTA! How’s that for ignorance and hypocrisy? I was happy to leave them to their tensions.

    I appreciate you calling out Susan G. on it’s idiocy.

    Thanks Hamid!

  10. Lee Blank
    March 8, 2012

    It is really ironic that Komen funded a breast cancer massage clinic at my school in DC ( Potomac Massage Training) where we provided oncoly massage free to survivors for two years.

    • Dev Masseur
      March 10, 2012

      Yes, you are right. I was also working in PMTI as a student,and, this clinic for breast cancer massage was very famous for working with professional massage therapists,who were trained in “Massage for people living with breast cancer”.

      The practitioners were not working on breasts, as the breasts were already removed.

      When I CEU course, the question was raised about working on breasts, but clarified by trainers, that MT is working on a client who has already been operated upon and as such have no breast tissues.

      I have many clients, who gave me consent in writing to work on their breasts.
      If you take legal advice, attorney will make you a written consent form where
      you can take consent from the client before you begin on breast area/ or any body area where client suggest you to work for relaxation, for
      relaxation therapeutic massage.

      In this case, “Spas offering Happy endings ” are better from Therapeutic massage practitioners as in such spas they are not legally and technically bound to cover them with such precautions, as the Happy Endings girls are not Massage Therapists.

  11. Tr71
    March 9, 2012

    Only 500 hours? Wow that’s getting off easy. In Canada it’s a 2200 hour program and taught in some colleges here. Sounds like that Kormon group are a bunch of quacks anyway. Massage should be taught as an associates degree rather than at fly by night private vocational schools and it should be regulated in every state and province otherwise it will neve receive the credibility it deserves.

  12. Cindy
    March 9, 2012

    Hello Hamid,
    Thank you for voicing this and I’m glad you did. As a massage therapist in New York I have encountered various disapprovals from many health care professionals like physical therapist, chiropractors and so forth. As a licensed massage therapist it is our duty to educate the masses as well as professionals who do not understand our profession. Massage therapist our mission is to spread healing to our clients and I’m glad you are putting all the injustices out there. Have you contacted the AMTA massage therapy association? Perhaps write a letter to Susan G Komen and voice your concern. The text was very vague and it could have been taken out of context. If you get an apology then it had nothing to with the massage therapy profession, but it’s always good to find out what exactly they meant. Hope this finds you well and know I’m a supporter.


  13. Robin Byler Thomas
    March 9, 2012

    Thanks for sharing Hamid and I’m sorry how things turned out. You are a good writer; can you share your final response?

  14. Tina
    March 9, 2012

    HI Hamid,
    wow! I am completely shocked and stunned!!!!!! I am a RMT and that was completely unprofessional and disrespectful of you and your time. The people who hurt unfortunately are the women you could have helped. I wonder if it had to do with the fact that you are a man. I hope you contact them and try to get a better explanation, they owe you at least that.
    I think perhaps that the Koman family should be made aware of this, the breast cancer foundation etc…. Especially if that is how they truly think and believe then the breast cancer woman are not being helped properly. Good luck to you, good karma to you and bad karma to the decision makers.

  15. Nancy Stewart, PT, CLT
    March 9, 2012

    Wow, I’m amazed by this state of affairs. Massage therapists are at almost every walk, run, stroll, whatever here in Philadelphia. I don’t know about the breast cancer events that are sponsored by Susan G. Komen. The 2 cancer centers that I work with have massage therapists, Reiki therapists, shiatsu therapists and me who does MFR as a PT. I frequently refer my PT patients to various body work therapists as an adjunct to what I do and for long term to maintain the progress that they have made.
    I think that it’s time either for new direction of Komen or that it’s time for it to end and another organization represent people with breast cancer.

  16. I am not surprised at this. I was a “Cancer” nurse circa 1962, way before the fancy name of Oncology was ever dreamed of. I’ve been a Massage Therapist since 1988. In 1990 I began teaching Cancer massage including Breast Cancer as there was a need for this education. I knew that massage could not spread cancer. When Koman began in Summit, NJ, the town next to me I immediately went there to offer my massage services on a voluntary basis. They blew me off as if I had the plague! Even then, I kept on plugging.For ten years now I donated 50,1/2 hour massages for their Pink Tie Ball. To this day no one has redeemed one. Wondering why, I went to the Summit office last year and was told they are trashed as they are against massage for breast cancer. Enough said! I am contacting the Society 4 Oncology Massage as well as the AMTA , Massage Magazine and AMTA Journal.

  17. Pingback: Susan G. Komen and massage for cancer. An update. | First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

  18. Ronda Rohde
    May 29, 2012

    We’d love it if you would get in touch with us Hamid. We have some ways that you could promote your business while helping those with breast or any other women’s cancer!
    Ronda Rohde
    Communications Director
    Breast Friends
    (503) 598-8048

    • Hi Ronda,

      I left a voicemail with Becky, I believe, at Breast Friends. I would be honored to talk to you. I am working on providing collaborative, community support for survivor’s of cancer. And, we are looking for more organizations interested in establishing partnerships. I can be reached by phone at 503-975-1259.

      Be well, Hamid : )

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Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT (OBMT #301)
Advanced massage therapy and bodywork
3810 SE Belmont ST
Portland, Oregon 97214

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