Music therapy and its benefits in cancer care 

A cancer diagnosis is a feared and serious life event that can cause stress in individuals and families. It can disrupt social, emotional, and physical well-being and can result in a range of emotions including anger, fear, and sadness.[1] Music therapy can be an effective aspect of your support plan you through your cancer treatment process.

Music Therapy Benefits for Cancer Care

While music does not affect the disease, it can help improve mood and can sometimes make a difference in the way you cope with and feel about your disease.

It can help

  • promote wellness,
  • improve physical and emotional well-being and
  • improve quality of life.

Music therapy, as a part of a complementary medicine program, can have many benefits for cancer patients. Some studies show that interactive music therapy techniques such as instrumental improvisation and singing, and receptive music therapy techniques, which include listening to recorded or live music, can help:

  • improve mood,
  • decrease stress, pain, anxiety levels
  • enhance relaxation.

A Registered Music Therapists (RMTS) can work as part of your allied health team in the hospital setting. They provide group or individual sessions where they develop music programs to meet specific needs. You don’t need to be a musician or have any musical knowledge to participate.

A music therapy session might include

  • listening to live or recorded music
  • making music by playing or learning instruments/singing
  • experience music-assisted relaxation
  • using song’s lyrics and listening as a way to reflect on your life
  • use music as a way to rest and manage stress

Some Cancer Centres, such as Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre provide Musical Therapy sessions at no cost, others charge a small fee for one-on-one or group sessions. You can also book private Music Therapy session with an RMT through the Australian Music Therapy Association via their search function. A number of these centres also offer video streaming of group sessions if you are unable to attend in person due to location, health or COVID-19 concerns.

More information on available Cancer Centre Music Therapy Programs

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA Hospital (NSW) – https://www.mylifehouse.org.au/services/allied-health/music-therapy/

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (VIC) – https://www.petermac.org/services/treatment/psychosocial-oncology/music-therapy

Olivia Newton-John – Cancer Wellness & Research Centre – https://www.onjcancercentre.org/patients-family/diagnosis-treatment/your-wellness-matters/our-wellness-programs/music-therapy

Austin Health – https://www.austin.org.au/page/243

Further Reading:

https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/living-well/complementary-therapies/mind-body-techniques/music-therapy/

[1] Stanczyk M, Music Therapy in Supportive Cancer Care, Reports of Practical Oncology and Radiotherapy, 2011, June 8 online. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863265)