By: Jocelyn Schwalm
Music has the special ability to resonate at our very core. Even when we feel like we are at our most vulnerable, it can console us. Now music is being linked to helping individuals who are undergoing various cancer treatments.
Listening to music, or singing, is lowering blood pressure in cancer patients, leading to a vast array of positive effects. When patients have access to music therapy, they are able to find solace. It becomes an outlet for the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies cancer treatment. When patients access music therapy, studies show that the result is a drastic mood-boosting effect, which consequently lowers stress.
Cancer comes with negative emotional side effects, and this in itself can be detrimental to the treatment of cancer patients. The more stress and anxiety they undergo, the more cortisol (a stress hormone) is released into their blood stream, lowering their already-weak immune system. While chemotherapy can be an absolute energy- drainer, the right selection of music can boost morale, resulting in increased energy levels.
Even those in palliative care benefit from music. To test this, cancer patients in a hospice center were split into two groups. One group received music therapy with hospice care, while the control group solely had access to hospice care. The patients who received the music therapy ranked their quality of life as vastly higher than those in the control group. Aside from solely listening to music, the participatory effects of making music have its own set of healing effects.
Writing songs is another form of music therapy. It encourages patients to focus on something other than the fear surrounding their next treatment. Many patients actually prefer to participate in the music-making process with their therapist because it provides a creative outlet for their frustrations and anxiety. They are able to use their newfound talent to validate their feelings and emotions or simply demonstrate how they actually feel through song to their friends and family members. Vulnerability through music is much easier to practice than flat-out stating the way these patients feel.
This type of treatment demonstrates just how closely connected the mind and body are, and how improving the health of one can vastly improve the other’s strength. Whether it be making music, or simply listening, music can remind the patient of something they enjoyed before their diagnosis made them forget it. The healing effects of music prove just how heavily our mind can influence our body.