Music therapy is slowly recognized to address the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of cancer patients.
Music therapy is the use of music by health care professionals to promote healing and enhance your quality of life. Studies show that when used with conventional cancer treatment, music therapy can have several benefits (Stanczyk, 2011).
What is the evidence for Music Therapy and other Integrative Therapies in Breast Cancer Treatment?
Many breast cancer patients use integrative therapies during and after cancer treatment. Survivors do this to manage symptoms, prevent toxicities, and improve the quality of life. Thus, practice guidelines are needed to help clinicians and survivors make decisions about safe and efficient therapies.
Greenle et al. (2014) set out to show such practice guidelines. The researchers followed the Institute of Medicine’s guideline development process and came up with a set of specific integrative therapies. It is then possible to recommend these integrative modalities as evidence-based supportive care options in breast cancer treatment.
B for Music Therapy
For common conditions such as anxiety and mood disorders, meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery are recommended for routine use. They receive a Grade A by Greenle et al. (2014).
For stress reduction, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life, Greenle et al. (2014) give stress management, yoga, massage, music therapy, and meditation a Grade B.
You can find a small collection of clinical music studies in the following paragraphs. The research reports help showcase the potential effects of music in different clinical and therapeutic settings.
Biological Effects of Music Therapy in Breast Cancer Cells
Because of the harmful effects and their use in diagnosis and treatment, electromagnetic waves are widely studied. The physiological effects of sound therapy, however, have been grossly ignored by the research community. As you may surmise, our bodies are unrelentingly exposed to sound (Capella, Lestard, Valente & Lopes, 2013).
It seems that researchers know a great deal how you can experience emotional effects of music. Simply put, you can convert sound into emotions with the help of mechanosensory hair cells inside the ear. Upon interacting with sound waves, these hair cells alter the sound into mechanical vibrations. These vibrations set processes in motion that transform vibration into neural impulses. Subsequently, the neural signals are then interpreted by the brain.
So, what started as a sound wave can ultimately evoke an emotional response through the conversion of mechanical energy to chemical and electrical signals (Capella et al., 2013).
Non-Auditory Cells Respond to Music Therapy
In contrast, newer research seems to show that these hair cells can sense the sound wave induced differences in fluid pressure. If that is the case, many other cells in your body, who do not have hair cells, may be susceptible to fluid pressure changes (Capella et al., 2013).
This is an important detail. This feature allows us to speculate that any cell is capable of acting to sound or music (Capella et al., 2013).
MCF7 Human Breast Cancer Cell Line Responds to Music Therapy
Capella et al. (2013) show for the first time that music can alter cellular morpho-functional parameters. Specifically, the researchers measured cell size and granularity in cultured cells. Cellular granularity is an indicator of cell injury.
The team also shows that music can directly interfere with hormone binding. This discovery suggests that music therapy could tweak normal cell function and activities. Music may also alter functional changes associated with disease (Capella et al., 2013).
Music Therapy, Chemo Therapy Plus Stem Cell Transplantation
A paper fresh off the press reports on a music study that looked to investigate the effects of music therapy as well as standard care. The study population was patients following a high-dose chemotherapy regimen with autologous stem cell transplantation (Tuinmann et al., 2016).
Tuinmann, Preissler, Böhmer, Suling, and Bokemeyer (2016) wanted to investigate whether music therapy had any effect on quality of life, depression, anxiety, and side effects of treatment. The team also studied the use of medication and immunological changes during treatment. Furthermore, patients were asked to come back after three months of completing high-dose chemotherapy plus autologous stem cell transplant for a follow assessment.
The Results of the 2016 Tuinmann et al. Research?
Tuinmann et al. (2016) report that music may improve pain perception in patients who received high-dose chemotherapy plus autologous stem cell transplant. Also, Tuinmann et al. (2016) also report positive effects on treatment side effects and immunological changes. Relevant is also the finding that use of medication administered for vomiting and nausea decreased in the music group.
However, it must be mentioned that some of the results failed statistical significance. Thus, further studies with larger sample sizes are needed.
Music Therapy for Symptoms of Nausea and Vomiting in Chemotherapy
Silva et al. (2014), aimed to assess the therapeutic effects of music therapy in nausea and vomiting associated with antineoplastic chemotherapy.
The team developed a descriptive, transversal study with a quantitative approach. The participants were mostly breast cancer survivors. The women were between the ages of 40 and 60 years old and married.
Before the onset of the study, the participants were skeptical that music would relieve nausea and vomiting. Most noteworthy is the fact that after only one music therapy session, heart rate decreased in 77% of the participants. Even more surprising to the research team was the reported reduction of nausea, which occurred in 100% of patients (Silva et al., 2014).
Silva and colleagues (2014) report statistically significant results for the reduction of nausea and vomiting after music therapy session (Silva et al., 2014).
Music Therapy and Progressive Muscle Relaxation after Radical Mastectomy
Zhou et al. (2015) set out to investigated the effects of music therapy and progressive muscle relaxation in Chinese female breast cancer patients after radical mastectomy. Their outcome measures were depression, anxiety, and length of hospital stay.
The researchers randomly allocated 85 breast cancer survivors to an intervention group. The intervention group would receive music therapy and progressive muscle relaxation training plus routine nursing care. The control group, also composed of 85 women, received routine nursing care (Zhou et al., 2015).
The researchers write that music therapy and progressive muscle relaxation training were performed twice a day. The researchers administered sessions for 30 minutes, once in the morning, and once in the evening, within 48 h after radical mastectomy. The women received music therapy in that way until discharged from the hospital.
In their results Zhou et al. (2015) report that music and progressive muscle relaxation training may be able to reduce depression, anxiety, and length of hospital stay. Let me reiterate. These findings pertain to female breast cancer patients who underwent radical mastectomy surgery in China. It is not clear if these findings apply to breast cancer survivors in North America.
Music Therapy, Depression, Duration of Hospital Stay of Breast Cancer Patients after Radical Mastectomy
Breast cancer patients are often depressed. A survivor’s depression can have adverse treatment effects as well as prolong hospital stay. So, four years before their 2015 study, Zhou et al. (2011) published a paper on music treatment for depression and duration of hospital stay. The study population was also breast cancer patients after radical mastectomy.
Zhou et al. (2011) found that music improves depression of breast cancer survivors. Music therapy was also able to decrease the duration of hospital stay. Thus, the research team recommends music therapy as an integrative modality applicable for the care of breast cancer survivors.
Music Therapy is Salutogenetic in Cancer Patients
Boyde, Linden, Boehm, and Ostermann (2012) offer an overview of recent findings in the field of music therapy. Boyde et al. (2012) identified 12 clinical studies. The studies were published between 2001 and 2011, comprising 922 patients.
Boyde et al. (2012) report that the results of the studies did not draw a clear picture of the overall effect of music. The researchers observed mixed results on short-term improvements in mood and relaxation. Similar results were seen in reduced exhaustion, anxiety, coping with cancer and cancer-related pain (Boyde et al. 2012).
Worthwhile mentioning though is that Boyde et al. (2012) also conclude that the use of music as an integrative cancer treatment might have salutogenic potential. The salutogenic potential of music therapy, they write, becomes clear in many case studies.
So, What the Heck Does Salutogenic or Salutogenesis Mean?
Salutogenesis is a concept made famous by the work of Antonovsky (1987). Antonovsky concerned himself with exploring the origin of health. His particular research interest was to investigate the factors that keep people healthy, especially those people in difficult circumstances, and not examining the cause of disease.
The Value of Music Therapy
Those of us who work in healthcare have front row seats to the pain and suffering a person with cancer has to endure. This suffering is however not limited to the person with cancer, but their loved ones and close friends may experience significant distress as well. Thus, it is paramount that we continue to increase knowledge of treatments that may help ease stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and treatment-related symptoms (Hart, 2009).
Music therapy is one such treatment that may help lighten psychologic, physical, and spiritual burdens experienced by patients with cancer. We must continue to improve our research and study design. It would also be wise to embrace and implement what we already know (Hart, 2009).
In this spirit, the Absenger Cancer Education Foundation (ACEF) brings you the “Living Well in Breast Cancer Survivorship (LWBCS)” program. The program is now available FREE of charge to any West Michigan breast cancer survivor at Johnson Family Cancer Center in Muskegon through a community grant from Susan G. Komen Michigan from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017.
We hope you spread the word about our classes that are part of the LWBCS program.
A brief Summary of the Benefits of Music Therapy for Breast Cancer Survivorship
- Music therapy may help you with side effects of both cancer and its treatment
- Music therapy may help you to cut cancer-related pain and anxiety
- Music therapy could help you to improve mood, enhance relaxation, and relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Music therapy may also help you to reduce stress and increase an overall sense of well-being
- Music therapy can help in decreasing the intensity and perception of pain when used in combination with pain medication
- In some cases, music therapy resulted in a reduced need for pain medication.
- Music therapy has been shown to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, as well as to reduce the effects of insomnia and depression
- The applications and benefits of music therapy may be endless.
- Additional studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation, and stress hormones.
- From patient interviews, we know that you may expect positive effects during and shortly after music therapy sessions. Even after your first session.
All the Information You Need to Receive the Benefits of Music Therapy
For more information, contact us at info [at] amacf.org, or by phone at (616) 607-7360, or in person at the Absenger Cancer Education Foundation at 17212 Van Wagoner Road, Spring Lake, MI 49456.
- email: info [at] amacf.org
- phone: (616) 607-7360
- web: www.amacf.org
2016 Music Class Schedule
- Every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month @ 5:15 p.m.
- Music classes are held at Johnson Family Cancer Center (JFCC), 1440 E Sherman Blvd, Muskegon, MI 49444.
- Use the entrance facing Sherman Blvd.
What is the Cost?
- Classes are FREE from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, for Breast Cancer Survivors.
- Thanks to a grant from Susan G. Komen Michigan
- The schedule subject to change without notice.
- Transportation assistance is available to those who qualify!
About Your Music Therapist:
Lisa Ziemelis, MT-BC, NMT was raised in Muskegon, MI, and from an early age was strongly influenced by music. Lisa earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Western Michigan University.
She also completed work at the Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Caro, MI. From there Lisa moved on to Sparrow Hospital where she joined an interdisciplinary team of therapists in the behavioral health department.
From research and experience, Lisa knows that music therapy is a highly effective tool in developing coping skills, encouraging emotional expression through music and art, and promoting social interaction. Music is engaging and allows for social interaction opportunities to connect and share a positive experience.
Lisa looks forward to having you in one of her supportive-expressive groups, where you will have social support in a group environment where you can be yourself.
Music Therapy References:
*Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
*Boyde, C., Linden, U., Boehm, K., & Ostermann, T. (2012). The use of music therapy during the treatment of cancer patients: A collection of evidence. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 1(5), 24–29. http://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.5.009
*Capella, M. M., Lestard, N. R., Valente, R., & Lopes, A. (2013). Direct effects of music in non-auditory cells in culture. Noise and Health, 15(66), 307. http://doi.org/10.4103/1463-1741.116568
*Greenlee, H., Balneaves, L. G., Carlson, L. E., Cohen, M., Deng, G., Hershman, D., … for the Society for Integrative Oncology Guidelines Working Group. (2014). Clinical practice guidelines on the use of integrative therapies as supportive care in patients treated for breast cancer. JNCI Monographs, 2014(50), 346–358. http://doi.org/10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu041
*Hart, J. (2009). Music therapy for children and adults with cancer. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 15(5), 221–225. http://doi.org/10.1089/act.2009.15510
*Silva, G. J., Fonseca, M. dos S., Rodrigues, A. B., Oliveira, P. P. de, Brasil, D. R. M., & Moreira, M. M. C. (2014). Utilização de experiências musicais como terapia para sintomas de náusea e vômito em quimioterapia. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem, 67(4), 630–636. http://doi.org/10.1590/0034-7167.2014670420
*Stanczyk, M. M. (2011). Music therapy in supportive cancer care. Reports of Practical Oncology & Radiotherapy, 16(5), 170–172. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.rpor.2011.04.005
*Tuinmann, G., Preissler, P., Böhmer, H., Suling, A., & Bokemeyer, C. (2016). The effects of music therapy in patients with high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell support: A randomized pilot study: Music therapy and stem cell transplantation. Psycho-Oncology. http://doi.org/10.1002/pon.4142
*Zhou, K., Li, X., Li, J., Liu, M., Dang, S., Wang, D., & Xin, X. (2015). A clinical randomized controlled trial of music therapy and progressive muscle relaxation training in female breast cancer patients after radical mastectomy: Results on depression, anxiety, and length of hospital stay. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 19(1), 54–59. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2014.07.010
*Zhou, K., Li, X., Yan, H., Dang, S., & Wang, D. (2011). Effects of music therapy on depression and duration of hospital stay of breast cancer patients after radical mastectomy. Chinese Medical Journal, 124(15), 2321–2327. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21933563
*Not everyone may get these results. Your results may be different. Research shows that the average person may improve her quality of life.