MWBC Complementary Therapies

The Macmillan Wellbeing Centre offers a range of Complementary therapies to improve your wellbeing and to promote relaxation.

Therapy sessions are held in private rooms at the centre and carried out by trained volunteer therapists.

Each service user (or carer) is entitled to a number of free sessions.

We can’t advise you about the best treatment for you. This information can only come from your doctor, who knows your full medical history. It is important to tell your cancer doctor if you are thinking of having, or are having, any complementary or alternative therapy. Always let your therapist know that you have cancer. You might be advised not to have complementary therapies because it isn’t safe to have them if you have a certain type of cancer or if you are having certain treatments. Your healthcare team will be able to give you more information about this.

Download the Macmillan Cancer and Complementary Therapies booklet at

Massage Therapies

Massage is a form of structured or therapeutic touch which can be used to:

  • Relax your mind and body
  • Relieve tension
  • Improve the flow of fluid (lymph) in the lymphatic system
  • Enhance your mood. 

Some studies of people with cancer suggested that massage therapy reduced symptoms such as pain, nausea, depression and fatigue.

There are different types of massage therapy. Some are soft and gentle, while others are more active and may be uncomfortable. Your therapist will be able to adjust the pressure for your comfort. Cancer doctors and complementary therapists will usually advise you to try gentle massage and avoid vigorous, deep tissue massage.

Body Massage includes full body, back, neck and shoulder, hand and foot.

Indian Head Massage is where the head, neck and face are massaged with the purpose of manipulating energy channels. The goal is to clear blocks in these energy channels that are purported to cause ailments.

Energy-based Therapies

Energy-based therapies are based on the theory that everyone has a special type of energy that can be worked on for health benefits. There is no medical evidence that energy-based therapies have any effect on the cancer. Some may be used to try to treat symptoms, but there is no medical evidence that they help. Their most common effects are that some people find them relaxing and calming.

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage. It’s based on the theory that health depends on the balanced flow of energy through certain channels in the body. Therapists believe placing pressure on these channels helps restore energy balance. They may also gently stretch or hold areas of the body to reduce stiffness and soreness. Although some people feel Shiatsu eases pain and other symptoms, there’s very little medical evidence to support this. However, many people still find it a relaxing or uplifting experience.

Reflexology is a form of foot or hand massage related to acupressure. Reflexologists believe different areas on the feet or hands represent, and are connected to, different parts of the body. They apply gentle pressure to specific points on the feet or hands with the aim of helping you to feel more relaxed.

Reiki is another type of therapeutic touch developed in Japan. You sit or lie down and the practitioner gently places their hands on or just above your body. They use a sequence of positions that cover most of your body. You don’t need to remove any clothing. Each position is held for about two to five minutes or until the practitioner feels the flow of energy has slowed or stopped.

Qigong is similar to Tai Chi a sequence of movements which can be learned to help reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions. Breathing exercise and meditation are often included in a class. Seated alternative moves can be offered if needed, so most service users will be able to join in with most actions. The only limiting factor may be if service users are immunosuppressed due to treatment and need to avoid group activities (they should have been advised of this by their nurse.

Beauty Therapies

Quality of life is a key issue for cancer patients who are faced with treatments that can trigger very unpleasant side-effects.

Body image is especially important - for patients undergoing chemotherapy, the loss of their hair can be especially devastating to their self-confidence.

Cancer Treatments can also leave patients feeling demoralised and depressed and in need of a fillip.

The Macmillan Wellbeing Centre is addressing some of these important issues by giving cancer patients practical advice to help them look good and feel confident.
Similar centres in other part of the country have been a great hit with patients, including male cancer patients, who found it a boost.

"Once your appearance alters, you alter inside. This is a great way of helping people inside. It is very relaxing and really boosting”

The Macmillan Wellbeing Centre is now offering the following beauty therapies:

  • Manicure / Pedicure - A cosmetic treatment of the hands or feet, including trimming and polishing of the nails and removing cuticles
  • Facials - A facial is a procedure involving a variety of skin treatments, including steam, exfoliation, extraction, creams, lotions, facial masks, peels and massage. Products are specifically tailored to skin type.