Music as a Therapeutic Intervention for Anxiety in Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy

Maureen Smith

Linda Casey

Darlene Johnson

Clement Gwede

Ona Z. Riggin

music therapy, anxiety, radiotherapy

Purpose/Objectives: To determine whether music moderates the level of anxiety that patients experience during radiation therapy.

Design: Experimental, longitudinal, random assignment to music or no music therapy.

Setting: Urban radiation oncology center in a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in the southeastern United States.

Sample: Forty-two men (19 in the experimental group, 23 in the control group) aged 39–80 years (74% white, 12% African American, 12% Hispanic, and 2% other) receiving definitive external beam radiation therapy for pelvic or abdominal malignancies.

Methods: Patients in the experimental group listened to music of their choice provided via audiotapes and headphones before and during their simulation and daily treatments for the duration of the planned course of therapy. The control group received standard care. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was administered initially to participants in both groups at the time of evaluation (time 1), postsimulation (time 2), at the end of the first week (time 3), at the end of the third week (time 4), and at the end of the fifth week or end of radiation therapy (time 5).

Main Research Variable: State anxiety.

Findings: No significant difference existed between the two groups to suggest that music moderated the level of anxiety during radiotherapy. However, post-hoc analyses identified changes and trends in state anxiety scores, suggesting a possible benefit of music therapy during radiotherapy.

Conclusions: Despite a lack of group differences, early intervention with music therapy for patients with high levels of anxiety may be beneficial.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Nurses and other clinicians may administer state anxiety scales at the initial visit or prior to pretreatment radiation planning (simulation). Individuals who have high state anxiety scores may receive nursing interventions tailored to reduce anxiety during simulation and the early part of radiotherapy.

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