Music Therapy Can Help Provide Relief for Cancer Patients

Music’s impact on our society is vast, and varied.

It inspires and energizes crowds, from sports fans to concertgoers. It tells stories in ways that language cannot. And it unifies people across cultures, communicating messages where words are not needed.

It also can be an individual source of comfort, an idea that has taken hold for people facing cancer.

Singing in a choir, even for just one hour a week, can provide help for cancer patients — on social, emotional and even physical levels, according to new research.

Tenovus Cancer Care and Royal College of Music and Imperial College in Wales teamed up to explore a choir’s impact on people dealing with cancer, either directly or through relatives. Investigators tested saliva samples from choir performers for a stress hormone, and found that stress levels were down after singers performed.

In addition to negatively impacting one’s outlook, stress has been proven to suppress the immune system, researchers said. While stress relief can’t actually cure a disease, it can certainly alleviate the symptoms and get patients on the right track to health.

That’s a lesson Huntsman Cancer Institute is already putting into practice.

Beth Hardy is a music therapist at HCI. There, she creates individualized music plans for each patient; she writes songs with some, plays music for others and incorporates it into therapy plans for others.

The impact is noticeable.

Music’s relaxation power is evident when patients drift off to sleep during sessions. Focusing on a musical activity also distracts patients from the pain they’re experiencing, which can decrease their need for some medications and improve their mood.

Hardy has found that music therapy not only provides help for cancer patients, but also for those who care for them. She often invites family members and friends of patients to take part in the music therapy, which allows them to work together in a different — and positive — way.

Cancer is known for causing stress, anxiety and depression — all of which can be directly countered by the positive power of music.

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