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QUESTION: How is music therapy beneficial for cancer patients?

It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t feel a strong connection to music. Even if you can’t carry a tune or play an instrument, you can probably reel off a list of songs that evoke happy memories and raise your spirits.

Surgeons have long played their favorite music to relieve stress in the operating room, and extending music to patients has been linked to improved surgical outcomes.

In the past few decades, music therapy has played an increasing role in all facets of healing. Studies have found music can be beneficial for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Patients showed elevated mood, lower blood pressure and lower heart rates when they listened to music.

We often look forward to the holiday season as a time full of joy and activity. For some, though, it can leave them feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Music therapy uses music and sound to help express emotions and improve emotional and physical well-being. You don’t need to be musically talented to benefit from music therapy. It isn’t about learning to sing or play an instrument.

Music therapy includes listening to music, moving to music, singing, making music with simple instruments, writing and discussing song lyrics and using guided imagery alongside music. Music can help you to express your emotions, cope with symptoms of cancer and its treatment, relax and feel comfortable, develop self-confidence and self-esteem and develop or rekindle a sense of creativity.

One of the main reasons people with cancer use music therapy is because it makes them feel good. Many of us know how calming and relaxing it can be to listen to a favorite piece of music. It can help cancer patients to cope with side effects such as pain, anxiety, depression, nausea and fatigue.

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Music can be a safe place for people to explore fear, anxiety, anger and the range of emotional responses to living with cancer. Some studies show that music therapy can help children with cancer to cope by encouraging them to cooperate and communicate.

Please join us for the Chordsman Quartet Holiday Performance on Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mission Hope Conference Room, 1325 E. Church St. in Santa Maria. Enjoy a holiday-themed evening of Christmas favorites and a sing-along. Space is limited, so call 219-4673 for a reservation.

For other support programs offered at Mission Hope Cancer Center, contact me at 346-3402. Supportive services include art therapy, dietary support and support for caregivers and children.

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Have a question for Your Cancer Answers, a weekly column produced by Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program? Email it to mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org.

Jenni Davis is an oncology counselor and patient advocate at Mission Hope Cancer Center.