The complementary therapy team is based in the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre within the Macmillan Support and Information Service. Outpatient appointments usually take place in our therapy rooms at the Cancer Centre. However, if you are unable to come to the therapy rooms, our therapists can visit you in day care and ambulatory care on the second, third and fourth floors. If you are staying in hospital as an inpatient, the therapists will see you on the ward. As well as seeing adults and young adults we also have a limited service for paediatric and teenage inpatients.
Complementary therapies may help you to cope with some of the physical and emotional impact of your illness and the side effects of its treatment. All of the therapies help to promote relaxation, enabling the body to rest and repair. Complementary therapies may also help to reduce or manage stress, anxiety, nausea, fatigue or physical tension, and lift mood or improve sleep. Therapies that are currently available include aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, reiki and relaxation. With all therapies the therapist will work with you to find the most comfortable position for you to be in – this may be lying down, seated or reclining.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from aromatic plants. These are blended to suit specific needs, for example to help with nausea, fatigue, anxiety or relaxation. Aromatherapy can be combined with massage, even if only a small area of your body is massaged, such as your hands or feet. Aromatherapy can also be provided in an individual inhaler called an aromastick which you can take away with you and use at home, in hospital or before or during a medical procedure.
We offer gentle massage, with or without the use of oils, which is particularly effective in helping you relax. You can choose whether you are comfortable removing some clothing for body massage with oils, or whether you prefer massage to be without oils over clothes or over a blanket. You can experience the beneficial effects of massage even when only a small area of your body is massaged, such as hands, feet or lower legs.
During a reiki session the therapist uses the lightest touch either on or slightly away from the body. The therapist’s hands remain still, with no movement, pressure or manipulation. You will be fully clothed during the session and you may experience warmth and relaxation in the body and stillness in the mind.
Reflexology is based on a theory, similar to acupuncture, that there are points on your body that connect to all of the body systems and organs. These points are usually located on the feet, but your hands can be treated instead if you prefer. Please note that reflexology is not used for diagnosis of any kind and our therapists will not ‘read your feet’. For foot reflexology, you will only need to remove your shoes and socks. The therapist will use gentle pressure and stroking techniques so that the treatment feels similar to a relaxing foot massage.
During a relaxation session you will be guided through one or more relaxation techniques, selected to meet your needs. These may include body relaxation, guided visualisation or mindful breathing, and can help to calm and relax your body and mind. The therapist will discuss with you how best to use the relaxation techniques outside of the session. Practising relaxation techniques can be helpful if you are feeling stressed or worried, for example before a medical procedure or when you are unable to sleep.
Complementary therapy education
In addition to our relaxation sessions, we can also teach you some simple self-massage and self-care techniques. These use gentle touch and holds to help you relax and cope with some challenges that you may experience before, during or after your treatment for cancer or a blood condition.
If you would like your partner or family member to learn some simple and gentle touch techniques to support you, we can book you for a Partner massage education session. It is suitable for a family member who is already giving you some massage and you both want to make sure that they are doing this safely, as well as somebody who would like to try it for the first time. Gentle massage from someone you are close to can be a relaxing, enjoyable and connecting experience for you both. It can also help you manage symptoms, such as peripheral neuropathy.
If you are interested in booking a complementary therapy education session please speak to your complementary therapist.
Sessions booked through the complementary therapy service are one-to-one. Group sessions are held during the Health and Wellbeing Event. For more information about the Health and Wellbeing Event please visit the wellbeing programme page.
Accessing complementary therapy
We are a small team and we are only able to offer our service to patients who receive their care for cancer or a blood condition within the Cancer Division at UCLH.
If you are an outpatient you can be referred via your consultant or CNS. You can also enquire about complementary therapy at the Macmillan Support and Information Service welcome desk or call 020 3447 8663.
Outpatients are usually offered a short course of sessions to meet an agreed therapeutic need.
If you are an inpatient you can speak to your healthcare team on the ward who can refer you.
We aim to see inpatients once a week, where our capacity allows.
Your first session will include a consultation. The therapist will discuss your needs and ask you some questions to ensure that the therapy you receive is safe and comfortable for you at this time.
Complementary therapy team
University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre
Macmillan Support and Information Service
Ground Floor, Huntley Street
London WC1E 6AG