Music therapy can reduce anxiety in cancer patients and can also have beneficial effects on their mood, pain and quality of life, according to a new analysis of previously published research.
Activities such as singing, listening to pre-recorded music and having direct engagement with music therapists have all been found to promote both psychological and physical well-being among patients with various types of cancer.
Researchers analyzed evidence from 1,891 cancer patients taking part in 30 different trials to come to their conclusion. Thirteen of those trials focused on offering sessions with trained music therapists, while in the remaining 17, patients were exposed to pre-recorded music. While some trials reported larger beneficial effects than others, the overall results found that music reduced anxiety significantly more than standard treatments, based on clinical anxiety scores.
Lower anxiety seemed to translate into a better quality of life, as researchers also reported music therapy also eased pain, benefited patients' mood and often improved heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
"Music interventions provided by trained music therapists as well as listening to pre-recorded music both have shown positive outcomes in this review, but at this time there is not enough evidence to determine if one intervention is more effective than the other," said lead researcher Joke Bradt, a professor of creative art therapies at Drexel University.
Researchers said further trials are needed to help increase certainty in the findings and to fully understand music's strong impact on mood, distress and body image.
Music therapy can have a strong therapeutic effect on people experiencing a variety of conditions or situations, according to the American Music Therapy Association, which reports such therapy can promote wellness, enhance memory and promote physical rehabilitation, among other benefits.