CATs improve quality of life among cancer patients

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Creative arts therapies (CATs) can improve anxiety, depression, pain symptoms, and quality of life among cancer patients, according to a new study. However, the effect was reduced during follow-up.

CATs include music therapy, dance/movement therapy, and various forms of art therapy. This systematic review sought to estimate the effect size of CAT on psychological symptoms and on quality of life among cancer patients during and after treatment.

The research team, from the National Institutes of Health, the ArtReach Foundation, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reviewed medical literature and included 27 studies that involved 1,576 patients. During treatment, CAT significantly reduced anxiety, depression, and pain, along with increasing quality of life. During follow-up, pain was significantly reduced by CAT. The strongest reductions in anxiety occurred in studies that had a non-CAT therapist administer the intervention, as compared with using a creative arts therapist, and in studies that had a comparison to a waiting list or usual care.

The largest pain reductions occurred during inpatient treatment and for homogenous cancer groups in outpatient settings. The reductions in pain were significantly smaller in heterogenous groups in outpatient settings. CAT interventions did not significantly reduce fatigue.

“The cumulative evidence indicates that CAT can decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain and increase QOL among cancer patients after treatment. The effects are greatly diminished during follow-up,” concluded the authors, from the National Institutes of Health, the ArtReach Foundation, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine (doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.836).
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