Music therapy can lessen anxiety for women undergoing surgical breast biopsies for cancer diagnosis and treatment, a first-of-its-kind study has found.
The two-year study from University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in the US involved 207 patients.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first randomised controlled trial to test music therapy for anxiety management with women undergoing outpatient breast cancer surgery, and the largest study of its kind to use live music therapy in the surgical arena," said lead author Jaclyn Bradley Palmer, music therapist at UH.
"Our aim was to determine if music therapy affected anxiety levels, anesthesia requirements, recovery time and patient satisfaction with the surgical experience," she said.
Patients were randomly assigned to one of three study groups. One group listened to preferred live music before surgery, one listened to preferred recorded music, and one experienced usual care with no music before surgery.
The participants who listened to either recorded or live music, selected their song choice, which was downloaded and played or learned and performed by the music therapist preoperatively.
"We discovered that anxiety levels dropped significantly from pre-test to post-test in patients who heard one preferred song of either live or recorded music before surgery," said Palmer.
"In this trial, both live and recorded preoperative music therapy interventions reduced anxiety significantly more than usual preoperative management by 28 and 27 points, representing per cent reductions of 43 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively," Palmer said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a nurse research assistant administered a pre-test to obtain a baseline reading on the women’s anxiety levels, then a post-test after 5 minutes of music therapy or usual care without music.
Live music was performed vocally with guitar or keyboard accompaniment by a music therapist who stood at the patient’s bedside and presented the brief music therapy session as the patient awaited surgery.
Whether patients heard live music or pre-recorded music before surgery, music therapists in both instances would engage the patients for five minutes in a short music therapy session which included the preferred song, conversation over the music choice and processing of any emotions which may have arisen.
During surgery, the two groups that experienced live or recorded music, also listened to staff-selected, pre-recorded harp music through headphones, carefully chosen for its smooth melodic lines, stable rhythms, and consistent dynamics.
Patients in the control group received usual pre-operative care with no music therapy and awaited surgery in typical fashion.
"There wasn’t a significant difference in anxiety between live music and recorded music. It seems like music, no matter how it is delivered, had a similar effect on reducing a patient’s preoperative anxiety," Palmer said.