In 2015, Palmer et al. conducted a study investigating the effects of music therapy on outcomes in women undergoing breast surgery, as part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan. This study is an important one for evidence-based practice in medical settings, because it considers the many facets and complications involved in music therapy and cancer care.
The randomized control trial involved two hundred and seven women who were assigned to one of three treatment conditions: patient-selected live music preoperatively (with therapist selected music during the operation), patient-selected recorded music preoperatively (again with therapist-selected music during the operation), or standard care preoperatively, with noise canceling headphones during the operation.
The researchers found that both live music and recorded music revealed a significant impact on anxiety scores. There was a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety measures in the live and recorded music patients compared to the patients receiving standard care. Additionally, though the results must be further replicated due to possible confounding variables, the researchers discovered that music therapy could achieve anxiety reduction in five minutes. On average, patients receiving this care met discharge requirements twelve minutes faster than those who had not. Though the time spent filling out assessments and the initial phone call must be considered, this time difference indicated that music therapy may be a time-effective treatment in cancer care. There was no difference in anesthesia requirements between groups.
Palmer et al. outlined several limitations of the study. There were challenges in finding an ideal time for music therapy implementation due to the fast-paced treatment environment. It was not possible to blind participants or researchers, and results may have been due to other introduced factors, such as the simple addition of another professional providing care.
Despite these potential limitations laid out by the researchers, this randomized control trial was well-defined, incorporated prior knowledge on music’s effect on the brain and autonomic systems, and had clearly stated procedures. This operationalization makes replication feasible, as well as provides clinicians with foundational support and validation for implementing music therapy preoperatively with this population.
Palmer, J. B., Lane, D., Mayo, D., Schluchter, M., & Leeming, R. (2015). Effects of music therapy on anesthesia requirements and anxiety in women undergoing ambulatory breast surgery for cancer diagnosis and treatment: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 33(28), 3162-3168.