Music may seem to have many influences on life. Effecting mood, concentration, creativity and even the ability to learn, it may be amazing how varying combinations of small individual notes are able to be built together to make life changing experiences. The therapeutic capabilities of music has risen over the past century in forms of yoga, relaxation techniques and the fitness industry. Now, scientists are looking at the power of music to help cancer patients.
The study, published in the American Cancer Society’s journal, investigated the technique of ‘Therapeutic Music Video’, which involves writing song lyrics and producing videos. Their ambition: to see if music might help patients reflect on their experiences and help create a productive outlook in their time of need, after previously conducted research noted strong family and social relationships have a beneficial effect on treatment.
113 patients, aged 11-24 and undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancer, were randomized either into a Therapeutic Music Video group or into a control group that received audiobooks. The researchers found those who had completed the Therapeutic Music Video course were reporting significantly better results for coping. The study also evaluated family environment 100 days after treatment and identified that the music therapy group was showing improved results of social interaction.
Cancer Research UK says music therapy might help people with cancer reduce their emotional condition and improve their quality of life. Sheri Robb, a music therapist from the study, explained why music may be particularly healthy at encouraging young people to engage. She said: “When everything else is so uncertain, songs are familiar to them are meaningful and make them feel connected.”
Therapeutic Music Video therapy works as patients are encouraged to identify what may be currently important to them, stating anything from family, religion to the relationships they have with friends and the medical professionals treating them. The reflection sessions are recorded through sound and video recordings, and storyboarding ideas.
At the climax of the therapy, the videos are shared through video premieres. The therapists believe this allows other people, such as their parents and health care providers, to have a stronger understanding of how the patient feels about their treatments and illness. Robb added: “It really targeted them writing, having an opportunity to write about what’s important to them, a lot of these kids as they’re going through treatment, they tend to far from talk about these things.”
Results from the study group identified several protective factors creates resilience in young people undergoing cancer treatment. These included spiritual beliefs and practices, a productive and adaptable family environment, and feeling supported by peers and health care providers. Dr. Joan E. Haase, an author of the study, says these protective factors may influence how young people cope, gain confidence and find meaning in the midst of their cancer journey. She said: “Adolescents and young adults who are resilient have the ability to rise above their medical conditions, gain a sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others.”
Co-author Dr. Sheri L. Robb aims the results may improve patient access to music therapy programs: “One of the key points in health care studies today is making sure findings such as ours are used to inform health care practices and service delivery. Music therapy improves coping skills in young cancer patients.”
Further studies aim to take place to understand the potential benefits of including parents in the intervention, and how best to integrate music therapy. Supplying young people with productive coping strategies may be vital in helping overcome cancer and music may be a powerful tool in a host of therapies.
What other ways might music help other patients with medical conditions?