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Music Interventions for Improving Psychological and Physical Outcomes for Cancer Patients

Bradt J, Dileo C, Grocke D, Magill L. Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes for cancer patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 8.
Having cancer may result in intense emotional, physical and social suffering. Music therapy and music medicine interventions have been used to alleviate symptoms and treatment side effects in cancer patients. In music medicine interventions, the patient simply listens to pre-recorded music that is offered by a medical professional. Music therapy requires the implementation of a music intervention by a trained music therapist, the presence of a therapeutic process, and the use of personally tailored music experiences.

This review included 30 trials with a total of 1891 participants. The findings suggest that music therapy and music medicine interventions may have a beneficial effect on anxiety, pain, mood, quality of life, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure in cancer patients. Most trials were at high risk of bias and, therefore, these results need to be interpreted with caution.

No evidence of a difference between music therapy or music medicine and control was found for depression, fatigue, or physical status. However, only a small number of trials investigated the effect of music on these outcomes. We could not draw any conclusions about the effect of music interventions on distress, body image, oxygen saturation level, immunologic functioning, spirituality, and communication outcomes because there were not enough trials looking at these aspects. Therefore, more research is needed.

The limited number of trials in this review prevented a comparison being made between music therapy interventions and pre-recorded music listening offered by medical personnel.

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