Using music can reduce anxiety in cancer patients and possibly have positive effects on mood, pain and quality of life, according to a Cochrane systematic review led by Joke Bradt, an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.
Bradt, who was the lead author on the study that was published earlier this month, found that cancer patients may benefit from sessions with trained music therapists or from listening to music.
“Our Cochrane review includes 30 trials with a total of nearly 2,000 participants with cancer. Nine trials included patients who underwent chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Eight trials examined the effects of music during surgery or other procedures, and 13 trials included general cancer patients. Four trials examined music interventions for children with cancer,” Bradt said in a recorded podcast found on the Cochrane website.
Additionally, 13 trials used trained music therapists, whereas patients listened to pre-recorded music offered by a medical professional in the remaining 17 trials. The amount of time patients participated in the music sessions and the frequency of how often they did it varied among the trials.
The results from the randomized trials show that, compared to standard treatments, music reduced anxiety considerably based on clinical anxiety scores. Some trials reported much larger beneficial effects than others.
Listening to music was linked to smaller beneficial effects for physiological changes in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. However, the number of trials that tested music’s effect on distress, body image and immunological function was too small to draw any conclusions, and the five small trials testing the effect of music on depression showed that it was not significantly useful.
The results of the study were written in the New York Times, Reuters and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as many other international news organizations.
Bradt, a board-certified music therapist with expertise in medical music therapy, was the lead author of four previous Cochrane reviews on music interventions with medical patients. The studies were on the effects of music therapy in coronary heart disease, end-of-life care, acquired brain injury and mechanically ventilated patients.