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Integrative Review: Effects of Music on Cancer Pain in Adults

AnnMarie Keenan

Joyce K. Keithley

cancer pain, music therapy
ONF 2015, 42(6), E368-E375. DOI: 10.1188/15.ONF.E368-E375

Problem Identification: To evaluate the literature for music’s effect on adult cancer pain.

Literature Search: An electronic literature search from 1986–2014 was conducted to evaluate the effects of quantitative music among adults with cancer pain in settings including homes, hospitals, and palliative care units. Databases used were PubMed (MEDLINE®) and Scopus.

Data Evaluation: The study designs, methods, measures, outcomes, and limitations were evaluated independently by the primary author and verified by the second author. The primary outcome measure of interest was the effect of music in cancer pain.

Synthesis: Of 82 studies, 5 of them—totaling 248 participants—met eligibility criteria. Review of findings suggests a paucity of innovative approaches for using music to mitigate cancer pain among adults. Psychological outcomes, anxiety, depression, and mood were understudied. Advanced pain, multiple cancer types, and lack of racial diversity characterize the samples.

Conclusions: Modern treatments for cancer have improved survival rates; however, patients often experience tumor- and treatment-related pain. Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic methods may minimize cancer pain. The use of music as an adjunct to pain medication requires additional studies, particularly on mechanisms of its effect on pain among diverse, large samples with multiple cancer pain types. A limitation of this review is the small number of available studies to date.

Implications for Practice: The evidence for music therapy in the management of pain is limited. Integrative methods using music may represent an important intervention that nurses may be able to suggest as an inexpensive, nontoxic, and readily available intervention for potentially minimizing cancer pain.

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