Spa-like treatments ease symptoms in cancer patients

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Spa-like treatments ease symptoms in cancer patients

Facials, acupuncture and massage may seem more suited for spa clients looking to be pampered, but studies show such treatments can relieve pain, reduce swelling and improve cancer patients’ outlook in ways traditional medicine sometimes can’t.

Until last year, Charlie Yommer would not have considered treating himself to a facial. That was before the cancer.

In mid-2017, doctors discovered Yommer, 58, had prostate cancer. Then came a bladder cancer diagnosis the following June. The second diagnosis, a more aggressive cancer, meant Yommer, a Garrett County resident, was driving nearly three hours one-way to Johns Hopkins Hospital for chemotherapy sessions. But the day before his treatments, Yommer makes a stop at the Four Seasons Baltimore.

Yommer is among the growing score of patients turning to spa-like treatments to ease their cancer symptoms. Facials, acupuncture and massage may seem more suited for spa clients looking to be pampered, but studies show such treatments can relieve pain, reduce swelling and improve patients’ outlook in ways traditional medicine sometimes can’t.

Although such services are available at hospitals such as the University of Maryland Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center, the spa at the Four Seasons is among the latest non-medical settings in Baltimore to offer a facial designed for clients with cancer. The Harbor East spa in 2018 began offering the Harmony Cancer Care Facial, a regimen by IS Clinical designed to hydrate and rejuvenate patients’ skin.

Yommer said the benefits go beyond the serums and masks applied to his face.

“Being a cancer patient, there’s just so much more than just the cancer itself. It’s thought process, the unknown. This is very relaxing,” Yommer said. “The radiation or the chemo treatments dries you out. Your skin gets red in different spots. And this helps hydrate the skin. You feel like a new person. It takes that irritation away, the inflammation, and it’s 25 minutes of relaxation and enjoyment.”

While there’s little scientific evidence backing benefits of facials in cancer treatment, literature supports the positive effects of treatments like massage and acupuncture in cancer patients, said Dr. Elizabeth Nichols, director of the University of Maryland Department of Radiation Oncology. She said those options are being more widely accepted and promoted by physicians as part of cancer care.

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