Writing Music, Making Videos Help Young Cancer Patients Cope With Treatment

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A cancer diagnosis can be especially difficult for young patients, who usually are undergoing aggressive treatments for their disease. A new study has found that a particular type of music therapy – known as Therapeutic Music Video – is especially helpful for adolescents and young adults with cancer cope with their diagnosis and treatment.

The study, published in the American Cancer Society journal, evaluated 113 patients aged between 11 and 24 who were undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. The patients were randomized into one of two groups. One participated in Therapeutic Music Video – a form of music therapy - for three weeks (a total of six sessions); the other received audiobooks.

Music therapy is used to promote healing and enhance quality of life for their patients. The goal is to encourage emotional expression, promote social interaction, and potentially relieve symptoms such as pain and anxiety.

Those in the TMV group expressed their thoughts and emotions about their disease and treatment through writing song lyrics and producing music videos. A board-certified music therapist helped the young patients with sound recordings, collecting video images and storyboarding. Each had the opportunity as well to include others in their projects; including family, friends, and even their healthcare providers which helped maintain important connections through the treatment process.

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The young patients who completed the Therapeutic Music Video course reported significantly better results for coping. Several protective factors that promote resilience during cancer treatment were also identified, including spiritual beliefs and practices, a positive and adaptable family environment, and feeling supported by peers and healthcare providers.

Dr. Joan E Haase PhD RN FAAN, one of the study authors, said, "Adolescents and young adults who are resilient have the ability to rise above their illness, gain a sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others.”

Co-author Dr. Sheri L. Robb PhD MT-BC hopes that the results of this and other similar studies will improve patient access to music therapy programs. "One of the challenges in health care today is making sure that research findings from studies such as ours are used to inform healthcare practices and service delivery.

Journal Reference
Robb Sheri L., Haase Joan E. et al. Randomized clinical trial of therapeutic music video intervention for resilience outcomes in adolescents/young adults undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant: A report from the Children's Oncology Group. Cancer. Article first published online: 27 JAN 2014. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.28355

Additional Resource:
American Cancer Society: Music Therapy

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