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Music Therapy Can Help Young Cancer Patients Remain in Good Spirits, Improve Treatment Outcome

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By Roshni Mahesh | January 27, 2014 10:57 PM EST

An intervention program based on music therapy can help young cancer patients cope with their situation better, a new study says.

EkpLo/Flickr
An intervention program based on music therapy can help young cancer patients cope with their situation better, a new study says.

The study, published in the online edition of journal Cancer, found that active participation in a therapeutic music session, which mainly involves writing lyrics and producing videos, helped patients deal with various stressors related to the disease and remain in good spirits and improved the overall outcome of the treatment.

For the study, researchers selected 113 youngsters - aged between 11 and 24 - who were receiving stem cell transplant treatments for cancer. Later, the participants were divided into two groups, according to the type of intervention they received - based either on a music video therapy or audio books. 

The therapeutic music video intervention worked by encouraging patients to express their inner feelings, experiences and finally helping them to identify and focus on the most important things in their life, including family, spirituality and relationships. The procedure that involved sound recording, compiling video images and storyboarding provided the patients an opportunity to mingle with their family, friends and improve their communication with the society. The intervention also helped parents and doctors get an idea of the patients' mind, including their views on the deadly disease, treatments and desires.

At the end of the study, patients who were subject to the music therapy achieved better social integration and family environment than the other group. Interestingly, the positive family environment, adaptability and positive communication were associated with better resilience during cancer treatments.  "These protective factors influence the ways adolescents and young adults cope, gain hope, and find meaning in the midst of their cancer journey," Dr Joan E. Haase, said in a news release. "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."

An incident that happened in 2012 is a perfect example to show how participating in video shoots can improve the quality of life in cancer patients.  The video posted on YouTube showed cancer-affected children undergoing treatment in the Seattle Children's Hospital, dancing to the tune of a popular song of Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger" and holding posters reading "fighter," "hope," and "stronger." The video was filmed in association with a creative arts program of cancer patients in the hospital. The touching video gave a glimpse into the children's condition and its hope of survival received wide attention on the net.

The staff and doctors said that such positive initiatives help cancer-stricken children remain in good spirits. "When a child or young adult is treated for cancer, it puts their whole life on hold in a way that doesn't seem fair at all," Dr Douglas Hawkins of the Seattle Children's Hospital told Associated Press.  "It's a fight for their life. But there are all these other normal things they want to be doing too, or things they want to focus on other than the medicine or the illness or their time in the hospital."

Building a positive attitude is one of the most important factors needed for the success of cancer treatment. Similar to the current study, last year researchers developed a series of video games titled Re-Mission 2 to help children fight cancer. The game was found as effective as medical treatments in helping patients fight and overcome their disease by improving their positive emotion, self-efficiency and motivation to follow chemotherapy.

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(Photo: EkpLo/Flickr / )
An intervention program based on music therapy can help young cancer patients cope with their situation better, a new study says.
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