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Music therapy improves anxiety, distress during radiation therapy

Tristan Manalac
10 Sep 2017

Music therapy (MT) significantly reduces anxiety and distress level of cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy (RT) simulation, a recent study has shown.

“This is the first clinical trial that measures a multilevel MT intervention using both live and prerecorded music to treat state anxiety and distress in patients undergoing simulation for RT,” said researchers.

“MT, provided by a board-certified music therapist, may offer a safe, cost-effective means of alleviating patient anxiety and distress,” they added.

The study cohort comprised 78 cancer patients (median age 58.5 years; 65.4 percent male), 38 of which had breast cancer while the remaining 40 had head and neck cancer. There were 39 patients in the MT group and 39 in the no-MT group.

Scores in the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Symptom Distress Thermometer (SDT) scales were significantly positively correlated before and after (p<0.0001 for both) RT simulation. These relationships persisted in both the MT (p=0.0141 and p<0.0001, respectively) and no-MT (p=0.0011 and p<0.0001, respectively) groups. [Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2017;99:103-110]

After RT simulation, state anxiety showed a significant decrease in the MT group (mean change 8.2; p<0.0001). In contrast, anxiety marginally increased in the no-MT group (mean change -1.2; p=0.46) after simulation.

Similarly, participants in the MT group showed improvements in the SDT (mean change, 1.6), while those in the no-MT group showed poor scores (mean change, -0.3). This corresponded to significant within-subject changes (p=0.0064).

“The prevalence of patient anxiety severe enough to cause session disruption indicates that initial interventions are well warranted and, furthermore, may have the potential to shift future perceived patient distress and enhance comfort factors,” said researchers. [Psychooncology 2011;20:1334-1341]

“Our data strongly suggest that MT can significantly reduce both [anxiety and distress] in this cohort,” they added.

A board-certified music therapist administered prerecorded music according to patient preferences which were collected during a brief orientation about the MT details. Approximately 40 minutes of music were prepared; the MT lasted for only approximately 20 minutes.

“Further studies examining the impact of such interventions on the patients’ experience during simulation and MT’s impact on the trajectory of their experience for the subsequent treatments delivered on a daily basis are warranted,” said researchers.

These should focus on the mechanisms by which music impacts these clinical findings and on the various time elements involved in RT (ie, waiting times and scheduling), added the researchers.

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Most Read Articles
18 Apr 2018
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6 days ago
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Pearl Toh, 3 days ago
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