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Music Helps with the Pain and Anxiety of Cancer Patients

The saying music soothes the soul has proven to be more than a catchy phrase.  Over the years, frequently listening to music has been linked to a number of health benefits which includes reducing stress.  A recent review of 30 studies published in the Cochrane Library found that music therapy helped cancer patients reduce anxiety and pain while improving overall quality of life. 

Joke Bradt, PhD., and associate professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University and her colleagues reviewed studies that included 1,891 cancer patients who went through different forms of music therapy.  In all of the studies, participants commonly listened to music and in some cases also played instruments, sang, or created rhymes along with control groups the received standard treatment.  Improvements linked to the different music therapies included: reduced anxiety, improved pain and mood, lower blood pressure, heart rate, and overall improved quality of life. 

Bradt concludes that there is need of more research and tests in order to see which type of music therapy is most effective, but says that programs should be tailored to the individual’s tastes and skills.  “It’s not like when you go to a doctor with a headache, and he prescribes a specific type of medicine that will help me with my headache and also help you with your headache,” Bradt explains. 

More in depth studies are needed to know the true extent of the benefits that music may have, however the results are promising.  Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at McGill University sums it up saying, “the cost involved with music is very small compared to other kinds of interventions. How well it works – say, compared to drugs – is another question, but the side effects are very minimal as well.  The worst thing that can happen [when] someone doesn’t like music is that they can turn it off.”  So whether you suffer from a chronic illness or not, listen to some music to help brighten your day and improve your mood.