Music-based therapy shown to address cancer patients' symptoms

19 August 2016

A new study has offered support for the idea that music-based therapies could be a potentially useful tool in the management of common symptoms experienced by cancer patients.

Research has been published by Drexel University in the Cochrane Library journal indicating that "significant evidence" exists to suggest that musical interventions can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, pain and fatigue in cancer patients, thereby helping to improve their overall quality of life.

For this study, researchers reviewed data from a total of 52 pre-existing studies, which involved a total of 3,731 participants with cancer between them. Of these trials, 23 were categorised as music therapy and the remaining 29 were classified as music medicine interventions. Music medicine simply involves listening to prerecorded music offered by doctors or nurses for symptom management, while music therapy is a more in-depth process, with trained music therapists helping to deliver personally-tailored experiences that may include listening to live or pre-recorded music, playing instruments and composing.

It was shown that music interventions of all kinds resulted in a moderate-to-strong effect in reducing patients' levels of anxiety, while a significant benefit was also seen in terms of lessening feelings of pain.

A small-to-moderate impact on fatigue was recorded, with small reductions in heart and respiratory rates and reduced blood pressure also achieved through musical interventions.

Additionally, the study offered evidence that the more in-depth music therapy approach may offer broader-ranging benefits than simpler music medicine techniques. The team observed a moderate increase in patients' quality of life when music therapy was applied, which was not replicated in the case where only a music medicine intervention was used.

Based on these positive findings, the Drexel University team said there may be cause for medical professionals to consider the benefits of introducing music-based therapeutic techniques for cancer patients on a wider scale.

Specifically, it was noted that music listening may reduce the need for anaesthetics and analgesics, as well as cutting down recovery time and the length of hospital stays. Although more research is needed to prove that this is the case, this could potentially be a highly beneficial area of investigation, as it could help healthcare systems to reduce their spending on more expensive treatments and free up time and resources for hospitals and medical professionals.

Dr Joke Bradt, associate professor at Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions, said: "Both music medicine and music therapy interventions play an important role in cancer care, but we didn't quite know yet which interventions may be best suited for which type of outcome.

"We hope that the findings of this review will encourage healthcare providers in medical settings to seriously consider the use of music therapy in the psychosocial care of people with cancer."

Posted by Philip Briggs

 


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