Impact of Music Therapy on Anxiety in Cancer Patients

December 21, 2017

Music therapy and a customized playlist might help patients chill during radiation therapy

 

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak,” penned English playwright and poet William Congreve. Could this phrase, written during the early 1700s, hold the keys to helping patients soothe the savage anxiety and stress they face during cancer treatments?

 

Seventy-eight patients with newly diagnosed cancer enrolled in a study examining the impact of music therapy (MT) on stress and anxiety during radiation therapy. Researchers randomly assigned 38 participants with breast cancer and 40 with head and neck cancer (39 in MT group and 39 in no MT group) either to receive consultation with a music therapist prior to radiation simulation and MT during the simulation, or to receive no intervention.

 

All participants learned what to expect during the simulation and watched an instructional video. Patients in the MT group were oriented in the simulation room before the procedure and listened to an individualized playlist (created after a consultation with a music therapist) during the simulation. (For details regarding the specific MT protocol and intervention, see International Journal of Radiation Oncology, which published the study results.) (For details regarding the specific MT protocol and intervention, see International Journal of Radiation Oncology, which published the study results.) Participants in the MT group experienced a significant reduction in anxiety (21.03%) during the procedure, as well as a reduction in distress, while the control group had a slight, nonstatistically significant increase in anxiety. The authors concluded, “Any reduction in the distress experienced by cancer patients likely contributes to a better patient experience, especially when that experience is the first to be encountered in a radiation oncology unit. It may enhance patient perception of his or her remaining treatment experience, leading to better tolerance of the course of treatment and enhanced quality of life.”

 

 

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