Written by Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated December 9, 2014

Music therapy

Abstract and key points

  • Music therapy is a therapeutic intervention involving the use of music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
  • Some evidence exists for improvements in cancer-related anxiety, mood, depression, pain and quality of life
  • Based on the considerable variation between trials, it is however not possible to generalise the results or to draw clear conclusions about the effectiveness of music therapy for people with cancer
  • No safety issues are on record.

Music therapy is an established healthcare profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. The techniques used include playing instruments, rhythmic based activities, improvising, singing, composing/song writing, imagery and music listening.

It has been suggested that music therapy can promote wellbeing, stress management, pain alleviation, emotional expression, memory enhancement, improved communication and physical rehabilitation.

Although some evidence suggests that music therapy may be a helpful supportive care intervention among various cancer populations, to date there is no strong evidence about its specific effect in patients. There is considerable variation between trials with regards to the manner in which music therapy was carried out and it is therefore not possible to generalise the result.

No safety issues are on record.

Citation Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Music therapy [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Music-therapy. December 9, 2014.

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