Medical investigators are documenting the healing power of music in a new study of the health benefits of using song as a way to ease stress, and boost immunity, in cancer treatments.
The study, launched by the Saint Louis University Cancer Center, aims to quantify the overall effects of music on the health of patients.
“We can see that some of our cancer patients who are undergoing treatment are showing signs of stress because their blood pressure is higher and respiration rate and pulse is faster than normal,” said Crystal Weaver, the Cancer Center’s music therapist and a study co-investigator. “Our goal is to see if music can help bring those vital signs into a more normal range.”
Weaver said researchers hope the study will identify the most effective ways to use music as an inexpensive, but effective way to help cancer patients heal and recovery.
“There are a lot of reasons cancer patients feel anxious when they come in for treatment,” she noted. “They may be dealing with unpleasant side effects of medications, such as hair loss or nausea. Sometimes they are thinking about how their illness impacts their family and finances and their ability to continue working. We want to find the best way to use music, which may not cost as much as other therapies and has no negative side effects, to help reduce their anxiety.”
The study aims to track three groups of cancer patients: those who hear live music performed during chemotherapy infusions; those who receive music therapy in their hospital or exam rooms; and those who do not have music as part of their treatment.
Researchers will measure the patients’ blood pressure, pulse, number of breaths taken per minute, and stress levels (assessed by survey).
Some patients will be able to choose the music they want to hear during a one-on-one session with a music therapist.
“Patients request anything and everything — country, religious, musicals, music that was popular when they were in their teens and 20s. I take the music they like and play it at 66 beats per minute because previous research shows that tempo helped well adults relax,” Weaver said.
Researchers hope the study will confirm their belief that music therapy can improve pulse, blood pressure, breaths per minute, and stress levels. That, in turn, could help therapists best determine how to use music in cancer treatment programs.
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