OBJECTIVES: Music may be a valuable and low-cost coping strategy for cancer patients. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify the psychological and physical effects of music interventions in cancer treatment.
METHODS: We included randomized, controlled trials with adult patients in active cancer treatment exposed to different music interventions versus control conditions. Qualitative studies and systematic reviews were excluded. We identified a total of 2624 records through 2 systematic searches (June 2015 and September 2016) in PubMed, Scopus, EMBASE, Cinahl, Web of Science, Cochrane, and PsycINFO and used Risk of Bias Assessment, GRADE and Checklist for Reporting Music-Based Interventions to evaluate the music applied and quality of the studies. We conducted meta-analyses using Review Manager (version 5.3). PROSPERO reg. no. CRD42015026024.
RESULTS: We included 25 RCT's (N = 1784) of which 20 were eligible for the meta-analysis (N = 1565). Music reduced anxiety (SMD -0·80 [95% CI, -1.35 to -0.25]), pain (SMD -0.88 [95% CI -1.45 to -0.32]), and improved mood (SMD -0.55 [95% CI, -0.98 to -0.13]). However, studies were hampered by heterogeneity with I(2) varying between 54% and 96%. Quality of the studies ranged from very low to low. The most effective mode of music intervention appeared to be passive listening to self-selected, recorded music in a single session design.
CONCLUSIONS: Music may be a tool in reducing anxiety, pain, and improving mood among patients with cancer in active treatment. However, methodological limitations in the studies conducted so far prevent firm conclusions.