Friday, May 30, 2008
Music Therapy and Cancer
Bone marrow transplant patients report less nausea and pain, and a faster recoveryMusic therapy for patients who have undergone a bone-marrow transplant reduces their reports of pain and nausea and may even play a role in quickening the pace at which their new marrow starts producing blood cells, according to a pilot study to be published later this year in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. The study, led by O.J. Sahler, M.D., at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was done with 42 patients on the bone marrow transplant unit at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Students studying at nearby Nazareth College provided music therapy to 23 patients after their transplants, while 19 'control' patients received standard follow-up treatment. Patients ranged in age from 5 to 65 years of age; most were being treated for various types of cancer, including leukemias, lymphomas, and solid tumors. The patients who met twice each week for music-assisted relaxation and imagery reported significantly less pain and nausea - on average, they rated both their pain and nausea 'severe' before sessions, but 'moderate' after sessions. Their new bone marrow took hold faster, too: The average time until patients began producing their own white blood cells was 13.5 days in the group receiving music therapy, compared to 15.5 days in the control group. The length of this span of time, when patients are most vulnerable to infection, is crucial. In some medical settings, such as mental health services, music therapy has been used widely to decrease patients' perception of pain, anxiety and depression, and boost their feelings of relaxation. It's also used in hospice to comfort terminally ill patients. But it's not commonly used with bone marrow transplant patients, who are often hospitalized for a month or more. Because their immune systems have been wiped out, visits are kept to a minimum to avoid infections, and feelings of isolation often set in. Patients can have a variety of side effects, including pain, nausea, fatigue, anemia and dehydration. 'One reason we began this study was because patients were requesting new ways of treatment,' says Sahler, a behavioral pediatrician who works with children who have chronic and terminal illnesses. 'The patients told the staff, 'I know I'm about to go through a major challenge that will be very painful and isolating. What do you have to offer me to help me get through this?' Music therapy was one answer. We originally began the study with children but quickly decided to enroll adults as well.' Sahler teamed up with Bryan Hunter, Ph.D., an associate professor of music and the coordinator of music therapy at Nazareth College and adjunct associate professor of pediatrics at the Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong, who has established music therapy programs in several hospitals.