5 common questions around insurance and oncology massage

Training specialist Jennifer Young answers your questions about oncology massage and insurance to help you provide services to clients who are experiencing, or have experienced cancer, with confidence.

Three things have historically stood between beauty therapists and their ability to treat cancer patients in salon or spa – fear, training and insurance. Fear is a powerful thing, and as a result, insurance companies have made it very difficult for therapists to be insured to treat a client with cancer.

When I first set up Jennifer Young Training, armed with a postgraduate qualification in law and degree-level scientific knowledge, I did the logical thing. I went to the insurance companies in search of someone who would work with me to create a programme that enables beauty therapists to be insured to treat patients with cancer.

I found the solution in the form of Alison Livings from Holistic Insurance Services, with whom I continue to work today. My team and I have authored 16 accredited oncology touch therapy qualifications and continue to seek answers to the industry’s challenges in order to make these services as accessible as possible for clients, and as supportive as possible for therapists.

5 common questions around insurance and oncology massage:

1. Is all beauty therapy training insurable for treating cancer patients?

No, it isn’t. The big thing about oncology training is knowing how to adapt therapies for the comfort of clients, but also so that you can do appropriate risk management to support them at this time in their lives. That’s the information that insurance companies want to know you have and understand.

2. If I'm not trained in oncology touch treatments, can I treat cancer patients?

No, and nor should any employer or client pressurise you into doing so. The different stages and variations of cancer and cancer treatments can have lots of effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing of an individual. It’s important that you both feel confident in the treatment you’re delivering – for your insurance and your sense of wellbeing at work – so that the client gets the nurturing treatment they deserve.

Some essential oils are contraindicated for cancer patients, some cancer treatments will cause sensitivities to touch and products, and some others will make clients particularly vulnerable to infection. To ensure a positive experience for all parties, you should not treat a client with cancer unless you have the appropriate training, and your insurance will not cover you if you knowingly do so.

3. Does oncology massage training and insurance mean I don't need to use consultations?

No. A consultation form or signed acknowledgement that you have taken the time to understand your client, their needs and the risk factors is always an important part of showing that you are qualified, informed and have done everything within your power to protect the wellbeing of your client.

4. What if a client doesn't tell me they have cancer and I'm not trained to treat them?

If a client doesn’t tell you that they have cancer, are receiving cancer treatment or have recently had cancer, then there’s very little you can do about it. This is where your consultation form is important, so you can show your insurer that you were unaware of that information and had taken reasonable measures to make sure you were fully informed.

5. Do I need to update my training to stay insurable?

You should stay up to date with all your training in general, especially as cancer treatments continue to adapt and evolve over time. It’s important to know about the biology of cancer, as well as foundation knowledge in the different treatments that are available and what they entail. We often have highly skilled therapists return to us to refresh their knowledge of these areas and, while it’s not a prerequisite, it is recommended.

Jennifer Young headshotJennifer Young is founder of Beauty Despite Cancer and Jennifer Young Training, which delivers accredited protocols for oncology touch therapies. Therapists can build the skills and knowledge they need to gain insurance and treat clients who are experiencing or have experienced cancer.