Why Should Parents Consider Music Therapy for Their Pediatric Oncology Patient?
Young children make up a significant part of the pediatric cancer population. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12,400 children and adolescents under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer each year. Forty-nine percent of reported cases occur in children nine years of age or younger.
Music therapy is the clinical use of music interventions to accomplish healing and well-being and the establishment of a therapeutic relationship. Kanitz, Camus, and Seifert (2013) report on a controlled study of music therapy for stem-cells transplant recipients. The researchers found lessened sleep disturbances in the music therapy group.
What Does Music Therapy Data Suggest?
Robb et al. (2007) investigated music therapy in eighty-three pediatric oncology patients, ages 4–7. Robb et al. (2007) report that music therapy participants had a much higher incidence of coping-related behaviors compared with two control conditions. The authors write that their research supports music therapy
“…to encourage coping-related behaviors in hospitalized children aged 4–7 receiving cancer treatment” (Robb et al., 2007, p. 699).
Doherty et al. (2013) investigated the effects of music therapy in adolescents/young adults (AYA) with cancer undergoing stem cell transplantation. The goal of this research was to get the parents’ perspective of on the helpfulness and meaningfulness of a behavioral health music therapy.
The report by Doherty et al. (2013) outlines that the parents of AYA could describe ways through which music therapy was helpful and meaningful for the AYA. Music therapy helped
“…alleviating symptoms, provided respite and distraction from daily suffering, and provided an antidote for the uncertainty that is pervasive during transplantation” (Doherty et al., 2013, p. 177).
Potential Benefits for Parents and Caregivers
The parents reported indirect personal benefits for themselves as well. One of these benefits was a sharing of “…positive emotional experiences with their AYA in the midst of a life-threatening treatment (Doherty et al., 2013, p. 177).
These results suggest
“…the importance of targeted interventions to manage symptom distress and uncertainty to improve quality of life during the acute phase of high-risk cancer treatments…” (Doherty et al., 2013, p. 177).
These results align with existing research that demonstrates the benefits of active and receptive music therapy interventions to decrease suffering and improve mood in patients during transplantation.
Kemper, Hamilton, McLean, and Lovato (2008) investigated music therapy as well. The research team recruited pediatric patients with leukemia. The patients were in maintenance or consolidation outpatient treatment. The children acted as their own control group in the first of two visits. At the beginning of visit one, children rested for 20 minutes. At visit two, the children listened to music for 20 minutes specifically designed to increase energy and improve heart rate variability (HRV). Parents completed visual analog scales (VAS) of their child’s relaxation, well-being, vitality, anxiety, stress, and depression before and after each visit. After analyzing the results, Kemper et al. (2008) found a significant improvement in reported relaxation with music therapy in pediatric oncology outpatients.
These studies show that music therapy is a well-known and accepted mind-body medicine modality in pediatrics. Music therapy can be successfully employed in children with cancer.
Docherty, S. L., Robb, S. L., Phillips-Salimi, C., Cherven, B., Stegenga, K., Hendricks-Ferguson, V., … Haase, J. (2013). Parental Perspectives on a Behavioral Health Music Intervention for Adolescent/Young Adult Resilience During Cancer Treatment: Report From the Children’s Oncology Group. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(2), 170–178. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.010
Kanitz, J. L., Camus, M. E., & Seifert, G. (2013). Keeping the balance – an overview of mind–body therapies in pediatric oncology. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21, S20–S25. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.02.001
Kemper, K. J., Hamilton, C. A., McLean, T. W., & Lovato, J. (2008). Impact of music on pediatric oncology outpatients. Pediatric Research, 64(1), 105–109.
Robb, S. L., Clair, A. A., Watanabe, M., Monahan, P. O., Azzouz, F., Stouffer, J. W., … Hannan, A. (2008). Randomized controlled trial of the active music engagement (AME) intervention on children with cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 17(7), 699–708. doi:10.1002/pon.1301