Managing Treatments

Music Therapy for Cancer Patients Hits the Right Note

Music therapy for cancer patients can also be a pleasant and rewarding activity for those who want to want to add their own tastes to their treatment program.

Music therapy for cancer patients can be an effective and comforting addition to a treatment plan. It is used to relieve pain and depression, which can both impede the battle against cancer. It is practiced by credentialed professionals, and there is a long history of evidence to back up its worth.

Effective for Body and Mind

Since the field of music therapy has become more professionalized, its many benefits have been documented. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that music therapy helps in cancer treatment. The musical experiences studied included music therapy sessions with a trained music therapist as well as recorded music played while in treatment, and a wide variety of musical types were included. Overall, a significant improvement in anxiety and mood was seen in patients. Small improvements were also noted in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and pain levels. While there was not enough evidence to tell which kind of exposure to music was most effective, the end result was overall, music therapy improved the quality of life for cancer patients.

A study conducted by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University shows that music therapy can boost cancer patients’ coping skills. The study observed a group of young patients undergoing stem cell transplants, some of whom received music video intervention, while a control group got audiobooks, over the course of three weeks. The music therapy group showed improved mental, emotional and social states.

But How?

In an interview on, Dr. Lane, a board-certified music therapist and cancer survivor, mentions that music therapy can include having patients write songs, play an instrument or even just enjoy listening to music. Music therapy has been shown to help with movement, increase involvement in treatment and provide emotional support for patients and their families. Some insurance plans cover an approved music therapy program as part of a treatment plan. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy may be reimbursable through Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance sources, depending on certain criteria.

Music therapy for cancer patients can give those battling the disease, and those who love and take care of them, a new lease on life. It can also be a pleasant and rewarding activity for those who want to add their own tastes to their treatment program, allowing them to preserve and strengthen their sense of self.

At UVA Cancer Center, patient care goes beyond surgeries and treatment.

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Kimberley Sirk
Kimberley Sirk