Music Therapy Helps Cancer Patients
By Rebecca Oppenheim

Patients who have undergone bone-marrow transplants report less pain and nausea if they take part in music therapy, according to US researchers.
The therapy may also actually speed up the time it takes for the new marrow to start producing blood cells, say the scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The team looked at 42 patients, aged between 5 and 65, who were being treated for various types of cancer, including leukaemias, lymphomas and solid tumours. Half the patients received music therapy after their transplants and the rest received standard follow-up care.
The music patients met twice a week and could listen to music of their choice, play instruments themselves, write songs or simply talk about music they liked. During the sessions the patients were also encouraged to visualise a peaceful or joyful setting.
The study revealed that patients who took part in the music therapy sessions reported significantly less pain and nausea. Before the sessions, they rated their pain and nausea as 'severe', but after the sessions only 'moderate'.
In addition, the new bone marrow was slower to take hold in patients who did not have music sessions Ð an average of 15.5 days compared to 13.5 days. The speed with which the patients begin producing their own white blood cells is crucial because they are vulnerable to infection.
Music is already used in some medical settings, such as mental health services and hospices for terminally ill patients, to decrease patients' perceptions of pain and depression, and boost feelings of relaxation.
However, it is not commonly used with bone marrow patients and initially staff members turned the therapists away saying the patients were too ill.
Researcher Dr OJ Sahler said, "It's taken a while for staff members to recognise that music therapy can be very helpful to people when they feel most distressed.
"Nurses and doctors originally thought that the patient had to be playing or singing along, but passive listening or simply the presence of the therapist providing music itself can be therapeutic," she said.
Her colleague Dr Bryan Hunter, an associate professor of music, added, "When a programme like this is first introduced, typically we get mixed reactions. Some in the healthcare field are sceptical at first.
"But when they see the positive effects on patients, they usually change their mind," he said.
The pilot study will appear later this year in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
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