A combination of music and aroma therapies was associated with greater alleviation of pain and anxiety in patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer than either modality alone or usual care. These findings were reported in the journal Clinical Breast Cancer.

The enhanced anxiety and pain these patients often experience during perioperative periods is well documented, and may determine morbidity, duration of hospital stay, and even mortality. Therefore, researchers at the Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in Changsha, Hunan, China, conducted an open-label, randomized, controlled trial involving patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer to evaluate the use of perioperative aromatherapy and/or music therapy to address anxiety and pain symptoms in these patients.

In this study, patients were randomly assigned to receive usual care, aromatherapy, music therapy, or a combination of aromatherapy with music therapy just before surgery. Music therapy was offered in 4 categories of music: classical, light, retro, and popular. Aromatherapy was based on a mix of lavender, bergamot, and geranium essential oils.

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The main analyses consisted of measurements of pain intensity and anxiety scores, which were evaluated using a visual analog scale. Measurements were obtained at 30 minutes prior to surgery and 4 hours after tracheal extubation. Certain demographic and clinical features were also assessed.

A total of 160 patients were evaluated, with 40 patients in each treatment group. The researchers found significant differences in pain intensity and anxiety levels following treatment, as well as differences in levels of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-6 and high mobility group box 1 (HMGB-1).

Pain intensity was overall greater after surgery, but better improvements were reported by those who received aromatherapy, music therapy, or the combination than by those who received usual care (P <.001 for each). Patients in the music therapy and aromatherapy groups reported similar levels of pain, whereas the combination was associated with the lowest increase in pain intensity with surgery.

Anxiety levels were significantly reduced in each intervention group compared with the usual care group (P <.001 for each intervention vs usual care). Again, the combination was associated with the greatest reduction, with patients in the aromatherapy and music therapy only groups reporting similar anxiety levels. A similar pattern of results between groups also occurred with IL-6 and HMGB-1 levels.

“In summary, aromatherapy plus music therapy achieves greater pain improvement and anxiety reduction in patients with breast cancer during perioperative periods than monotherapy,” the researchers concluded.


Deng C, Xie Y, Liu Y, Li Y, Xiao Y. Aromatherapy plus music therapy improve pain intensity and anxiety scores in patients with breast cancer during perioperative periods: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Breast Cancer. 2022;22(2):115-120. doi:10.1016/j.clbc.2021.05.006