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  1. ITV Report

Call for spas to change policy on not treating cancer patients

  • Jo Mackie was refused treatment at a Center Parcs

Cancer patients are being refused spa treatments due to a ban on them despite there being no evidence of risk that light massage and similar therapies can exacerbate the illness.

Around 70 per cent of spas in the United Kingdom operate an outright ban on offering their services to people who have either undergone or are in the process of receiving treatment for cancer.

Some claim that carrying out treatments on those with cancer could increase insurance premiums, while others reference outdated practice advice for not allowing cancer patients.

Jo Mackie was refused a massage and manicure at a Center Parcs, where she was celebrating her 50th birthday, as she had previously been treated for breast cancer.

Asked what she thought about being turned away by Centre Parcs, Ms Mackie told ITV London: "Fundamentally, I think it's humiliating - you fight tooth and nail as a cancer patient to beat a disease which is potential life threatening only to be told you can do something as normal as have a massage or even have your nails done. It's ridiculous to think you can't have nail varnish having had cancer."

Ms Mackie is suing Center Parcs over her experience. The company said in a statement: "If a guest has a medical condition or had undergone a medical treatment we do ask for a letter from their GP, as therapists are not medically trained

"We now offer a wellness menu which includes a range of treatments that are available to all guests including those have had treatment for cancer."

Michelle Hammond, founder and director of Spa Business School and tpot.org.uk, which promotes "the power of touch", believes there's no reason to stop cancer patients being permitted massages and similar treatments.

  • Michelle Hammond founder and director of Spa Business School and tpot.org.uk

Ms Hammond told ITV London: "Tpot has worked the Christie, Royal Marsden, Bart's Hospital health group, Mount Vernon and all of their NHS guidelines have told us there is absolutely no reason and no risk that someone with cancer can't seek light therapeutic massage.

"The truth is, this is hugely beneficial, there's so much evidence to show how much massage helps with confidence, it helps people reconnect with themselves, can help people take a breath, it can be good for pain management.

"There are lots of benefits, the risk is unwritten. Some people are worried about that one potential risk that it might harm someone but there is no evidence of that in the last 50 years that we've been able to look back and trace."

Those who are in remission often need to provide a doctor's note to prove they have been in remission for over two years before they are allowed treatment.

Many spas will not treat those with cancer. Credit: PA

It is hoped spas will now become more accepting of those with cancer and will welcome them for treatments.

Ms Hammond says the current system is affecting those with cancer who merely want a massage to help them in tough times.

"I think it is a huge impact, I think people are seeking refuge when they're seeking a spa and beauty treatment. It's not an alternative therapy, it's just something to help enable them to escape, to capture moments with their friends and family," Ms Hammond explained.

"They're coming to feel normal and escape the new diagnosis and craziness of their world. So coming into an environment like this and being turned away at a time when they really need wellness and the power of touch more than ever is deeply emotionally upsetting."

Sarah Chapman is based in London. Credit: PA

One spa that does not offer treatment to cancer patients is Sarah Chapman Skinesis Clinic in London, which is used by Meghan Markle and the Beckhams, although will allow it with a doctor's note.

The company explained their reasoning in a statement, it read: "Our utmost priority is to ensure that all our clients are treated in a safe manner. Following advice from a leading industry association and information detailed on the clients consultation form, the decision was made in this case not to proceed with treatment in order to protect the safety of the client.

"The safety guidelines regarding treatment of cancer patients is a grey area so should there be any element of risk we would always err on the side of caution. We continue to successfully treat many clients who have had cancer should we and their Doctor feel that treatment is suitable and we appreciate the significant wellbeing benefits this can give them during this time."