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Visiting a Spa: Your Safety

By Morag Currin

I speak and teach to aestheticians all over the world on educating them in dealing with spa clients who have disabilities. Trends for the future show an increase for spa’s making changes towards taking care of clients with disabilities. “Disabled” is no longer a concept applied to people using wheelchairs or with vision or hearing impairments. It now encompasses physical, unseen conditions such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, depression and many other disabilities.

Nearly every person will have a disability at some point in their live whether from a lifelong condition, temporarily from cancer treatment, a sports injury, a pregnancy, while recovering from medical treatments, surgery, or simply as we age. As more people encounter a disability, spas now have an opportunity to offer more services that provide restoration, recuperation and in many cases what all is needed is a simple touch and stress-relief to those who need it most.

It is no longer acceptable to hear that a cancer survivor, or person with a disability report that he or she felt uncomfortable or was not properly accommodated at a spa.  The opportunity now is for spa therapists to warmly welcome and deliver spa services to people of all abilities and ages. More spa therapists will start to rethink facilities, equipment, staffing and education to meet an increasingly mainstream, not niche, population.

With many more people experiencing health issues, such as cancer, and an increased emphasis on wellness, people are recognizing the health benefits of regular spa visits as a way to aid in treatment of health issues and as a preventative measure as well.  Any spa with trained spa professionals should provide you with a personalized spa treatment that is specific to you, your health issues and for your safety and comfort.

It important for you, the client, to share important information regarding your health concerns and or cancer treatment with your spa therapist such as:

List of current medications and any side effects

Client: it is advised to take a written list of all your current medications, why you take them, and any side effects from these medications.

Current cancer treatment(s) and side effects

Client: it is good to know your own lab counts, and if any of your blood counts are low, it is advisable to re-schedule your spa treatment at a later date as there are risks such as:

  • Low white blood cell count – you are at risk for infection
  • Low red blood cell count – you are anemic, and possibly extremely fatigued
  • Low platelet count – you are at risk for bruising/bleeding

Current skin issues

Client: inflammation, poor wound healing requires avoiding working over this area. Products used for the spa treatment need to be non-irritating, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic and for many, non-fragranced skin care products.

Medical devices

Client: insertion of a port-a-cath, PICC line, ommaya reservoir requires avoiding working over these areas.

Prosthetic body part

Client: how would this impact your spa treatment?  Do you need to remove this body part? Do you need an adjustable bed, help with changing into a spa wrap and or getting onto the bed?

Lymph nodes that were removed or radiated

Client: location of nodes that were removed or radiated is important information for spa therapist so they can re-direct their massage strokes.  Regular massage presents a risk for lymphedema.

When booking your spa treatment, please ask the spa if any of their spa therapists are certified to work with a client who is undergoing cancer treatment, or who is recovering from cancer treatment.  Some spas will tell you their therapists are qualified, and they are not. You, as a spa client have the right to ask to see a copy of the spa therapists education and any certifications they may have to prove they have been properly trained.  Other spas will tell you that they do not have anyone certified to do so and they may refuse to treat you, which is much safer for your outcome.  You have to appreciate their candidness at least they let you know.

Please also know that the majority of spa therapists are NOT equipped to work with clients with cancer.  Many do not know anything about cancer, nor cancer treatment and therefore cannot provide you with a safe, personalized treatment.

Working with a spa therapist who has some training in your health issue will ensure a better outcome and you will relax a lot more.  With them having an understanding of the disease,

It is highly recommended that you avoid all ‘cookie cutter’ spa protocols with uninformed and uneducated spa therapists who are not trained to work specifically with your health issue.  If you do happen to have a spa treatment that is not satisfactory to you, please address this with the spa owner/director or manager.

To start your journey do some investigating by calling and speaking with spa professionals like the spa manager or owner. Also refer to medical spas they should have nurses and a doctor on staff that should be familiar many health concerns. What ever you do talk and share your information to allow for the best fit possible for a successful spa experience and treatment.
Finding a certified spa therapist to work with clients undergoing cancer can be found at The International Society for Oncology Estheticians at