Music plays an optimistic note for cancer patients

Researchers from the Indiana University School of Nursing have started using music to help young cancer patients understand their illness. The study followed 113 young people ages 11 to 24 and assessed how well music aided them throughout the course of their treatment, sometimes involving stem cell transplants. Over the course of three weeks, researchers and professors Joan E. Haase and Sherri L. Robb along with their team tested Therapeutic Music Video intervention, where young cancer patients to express their thoughts and feelings through the making of music videos.

Of the stem cell cancer treatment patients, some worked with music therapists to create music videos, others received audiobooks. After six sessions covering three weeks the Therapeutic Music Video group showed much better coping mechanisms compared to the group that received only audiobooks. From writing lyrics to recording sound and video footage, the teens and young adults expressed their feelings about their situations with the music they produced.

According to questionnaires, patients felt more optimistic about their situations after using music as a means for expression. Having cancer at any point in one’s life is difficult, but as Dr. Brad Zebrack, associate professor from the University of Michigan School of Social Work told Reuters, “One of the biggest challenges they face is the social isolation. Having to spend a lot of time at home, not being able to be with their friends for a lot of time. The disruption of cancer comes at a time in life when that type of social interaction is so important.”

Making music videos encourages patients to express what they are feeling to their families and friends, but also allows them to internally process what they are going through. Months after the treatment, patients said that communication was better with their families, showing that music therapy can have lasting effects. Music therapy is increasingly offered as a form of treatment in children’s hospitals. Furthermore, music therapy can improve quality of life for patients of multiple diseases, not just cancer patients.

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Photo: David Torcivia/ flickr

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