Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Music May Help Women in Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

By: Celeste L. Dixon
Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Not a single drug given in a study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies ended on a high note (reducing anxiety, depression, fatigue, and vomiting). Instead, the most significant improvement in quality-of-life for Brazilian women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy came from notes—musical notes. The results of this trial, conducted by Plínio da Cunha Leal, MD, PhD, of the Federal University of Maranhão in São Luis, Maranhão, and colleagues, were based on using musical intervention as a complementary treatment.

Women with breast cancer undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy were randomly assigned to either the music group (n = 16) or the control group (n = 17); they were then assessed after each of the first three treatment cycles. Before each chemotherapy session, patients in the music group heard 30 minutes of “classical, traditional works containing slow, consistent [rhythms], melodic instrumental pieces, and well-known movie music tracks,” explained Dr. Leal and colleagues. The control patients heard no music before chemotherapy.

Baseline characteristics, including demographic and social variables, lifestyle habits, time since diagnosis, and tumor staging, were similar between the groups. Excluded patients included those diagnosed with metastatic disease or those who had previously undergone chemotherapy.

In questionnaire responses, all music-group participants reported positive changes—such as improved good humor, motivation, and self-confidence—as well as reduced fatigue and stress levels. The women in the music group also had higher quality-of-life scores on functional scales compared with controls after the first and third chemotherapy sessions. Depression (P < .001) and anxiety scores (P < .001) as well as the incidence of vomiting (P < .01) were all lower for participants of the music group after the third chemotherapy session.

According to the investigators, even 10 to 15 minutes of music listening may elevate the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Among the trial’s playlist songs were “Ave Maria,” a mashup of Adele’s “Hello” and Mozart’s “Lacrimosa,” and “Ocean of Memories” from the film Titanic.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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