Holistic Health Show with Carl Helvie logoIn 2015 the American Cancer Association on their website stated there is some evidence that, when used with conventional treatment, music therapy can help reduce pain and relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. It may also relieve stress, improve coping and mood, and provide an overall sense of well-being. In addition, some studies have found that music therapy can lower heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.

They continue that it is often used in cancer treatment to help reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as nausea caused by chemotherapy. Some people believe music therapy may be a beneficial addition to the health care of children with cancer by promoting social interaction and cooperation. There are no claims music therapy can cure cancer or other diseases, but medical experts do believe it can reduce some symptoms, aid healing, improve physical movement, and enrich a patient’s quality of life.

In 2003, Cassileth et al used a randomized control design  to  study patients with hematologic malignancy admitted for high-dose therapy with autologous stem cell transplantation (HDT/ASC) at Sloan Kettering Hospital and Ireland Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Sixty nine patients  were divided and one group receive music therapy given by trained music therapists and the other received standard care. Outcome was assessed at baseline and every 3 days after randomization using the Profile of Mood States. Follow up data was available for 62 (90%) During their inpatient stay, patients in the music therapy group scored 28% lower on the combined Anxiety/Depression scale (P = 0.065) and 37% lower (P = 0.01) on the total mood disturbance score compared with controls. Researchers concluded that music therapy is a noninvasive and inexpensive intervention that appears to reduce mood disturbance in patients undergoing HDT/ASCT.

In 2006 researchers evaluated all studies that used music to reduce pain in people with cancer. The review included 51 studies with a total of 3,663 people. The reviewers found that music reduced pain and also reduced the need for strong painkillers. But the benefits were small and the reviewers said that music should not be considered a first treatment for pain relief. However, listening to music to reduce pain is cheap, easy to provide and is safe.

In 2009, Teiwes presented results of his longitudinal non experimental mixed methods research on music and cancer patients and evaluated patient satisfaction of diverse music therapy interventions on post hospital curative cancer patients. They also assessed emotional perceptions and which ones helped patients handle their disease. Eighty-six patients participated in the study and either attended active music therapy (percussion or improvisation therapy) or receptive music therapy (sound meditation).  The sample’s mean age was 55 years and most of the patients were female (81%) and diagnosed with breast cancer (53%). Most also had no previous experience with music therapy (90%) Patients were satisfied with the music therapy and the group using active music therapy had a significantly higher satisfaction score. Patients also expressed positive emotions and were cheered up and felt relieved. They reported the perception of positive emotions and negative cancer related emotions helped them handling their disease. Patients especially perceived psychological and psychosomatic effects. Perceived psychological and psychosomatic effects were similar within all the three groups offered music therapy treatments. Patients from all interventions perceived relaxation, rest and increased power and vitality. They also perceived mood improvement, release of positive emotions, distraction from stress and negative cancer-related emotions and an increased self-awareness. Researchers concluded that music therapy can have positive influences on the well-being of cancer patients in the post-hospital curative stage.

In 2011 researchers reviewed all the studies that used music therapy to help cancer patients psychologically and physically. In their review there were 30 trials and 1,891 people who participated. The results suggested that music therapy can lower levels of anxiety in people with cancer and could slightly lower pain levels, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. In this review it did not seem to reduce depression and there was no strong evidence that it could reduce tiredness (fatigue) or help with physical symptoms.

In 2013 a small Turkish study looked at using music therapy and guided visual imagery for 40 people with anxiety, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. The researchers stated that the music therapy and visual imagery had positive effects because the cancer patients’ anxiety levels was greatly reduced and they had less frequent and less severe nausea and vomiting.