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The Effect of Music in Therapy on Cancer Patients

Music has been used in therapy for many thousands of years. Supposedly, the idea existed since biblical times; Ancient Greece employed it, as well as the population of Medieval Europe and Native Americans (Gallagher et al. 250). Nowadays, it is still used in healthcare, and research on the topic is being carried out to inform relevant practice. The existing evidence proves the therapeutic effect of music on a number of issues; apart from that, nursing values its ability to improve people’s emotional state. As a result, music is a major tool in healthcare, and nurses should learn about it and employ it as necessary.

At least two approaches to music interventions can be noted: music therapy and music medicine. Bradt et al. note that music therapy refers to more interactive methods (for instance, playing music), which presuppose the employment of a music therapist. Music medicine, in turn, is associated with more passive actions (for example, listening to music) that do not involve a music therapist. Bradt et al. show that both approaches can be effective, and patients can choose either depending on their preferences. In the present paper, both methods will be described with the help of the term “music in therapy” (MIT).

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In healthcare, it is important for a practice to be evidence-based, which is why it is necessary to review the effects that MIT is proven to have. A relatively recent study presented by Kamioka et al. examined 21 systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials, which are considered to be very high-quality evidence. The investigated experiments were dedicated to the use of MIT for mental disorders, as well as the diseases of the nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems. Furthermore, endocrine issues and pregnancy were considered. The different conditions were represented with a varying degree of frequency; for instance, mental disorders had eight trials dedicated to them, while endocrine issues were only discussed in one analysis. Also, the quality of evidence differed, and some trials had important limitations. Still, the article can be used to draw the following conclusions.

First of all, MIT was not shown to have any negative effects in any of the reviewed trials. Secondly, the authors found sufficient evidence to suggest that MIT can indeed improve the outcomes of patients with certain conditions. In particular, MIT was shown to affect “schizophrenia and/or serious mental disorders” by improving the patients’ “global and social functioning” (Kamioka et al. 750). Also, people with Parkinson’s disease could note improvements with respect to “gait and related activities, depressive symptoms, and sleep quality” (Kamioka et al. 750). Additionally, Kamioka et al. suggest that the patients who suffer from issues that involve mental impairments or pain may benefit from MIT. However, the authors note that the data for the rest of the covered issues could not be viewed as sufficient. Therefore, additional research may be required.

Similar conclusions can be found in other studies on the topic. For instance, Gallagher et al. considered the use of MIT in palliative medicine with a specific focus on symptom management. The symptoms that were reviewed included anxiety, moods, pain, and so on. The authors found statistically significant improvements in the 293 patients who corresponded to the criteria of this retrospective study (Gallagher et al. 254-255). Similarly, Bradt et al. report that for patients with cancer, both music therapy and music medicine are effective in improving mood, reducing pain and anxiety, and promoting relaxation. In summary, it is apparent that some high-quality evidence indicates that music can indeed result in better patient outcomes.

However, from the perspective of nursing, another aspect of MIT is also important. Since ancient times, music was used in therapy for its ability to satisfy emotional and spiritual needs. It was true, for example, for Native Americans (Gallagher et al. 250). For modern holistic nursing, different aspects of a person’s health are relevant, and they include emotions and spirituality. According to Bradt et al. and Gallagher et al., as well as some of the reviews considered by Kamioka et al., patients tend to have a positive response toward MIT because it improves their emotional state. For instance, Bradt et al. specifically focus on the reports of music giving hope to patients with cancer (1266-1268). Additionally, for specific populations and types of music, MIT can be associated with spiritual practices. Thus, even if the effectiveness of music in reducing the symptoms or severity of specific diseases may not be proven, it can still be employed for patients with such issues if they believe that it is beneficial for their emotional or spiritual state. As found by Kamioka et al., MIT is not dangerous and is never associated with negative outcomes; therefore, this approach seems appropriate.

In summary, MIT is an ancient healthcare method that has been gaining the recognition and attention of scientists in recent years. More research is still required, but the existing evidence supports the use of MIT for the reduction of negative symptoms and improvement of the well-being of patients. Additionally, music can be beneficial for emotional and spiritual well-being. Thus, holistic nursing needs to take this tool into account.