(HealthDay News) — For cancer patients, creative arts therapies (CATs) are associated with improvements in psychological symptoms and quality of life, according to a systematic review published online May 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

To estimate the effect of CAT on psychological symptoms and quality of life in cancer patients during treatment and follow-up, Timothy W. Puetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues conducted a systematic review involving 27 studies in which 1,576 cancer patients were randomized to a CAT or control condition.

The researchers found that during treatment there were significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and pain, as well as increased quality of life with CAT. During follow-up, pain was significantly reduced. The most robust reductions in anxiety were seen in (1) studies where a non-CAT therapist administered the intervention compared with studies that used a creative arts therapist, and (2) studies that used a waiting-list or usual-care comparison. Reductions in pain were largest during inpatient treatment and in outpatient settings involving homogenous cancer groups. Heterogeneous groups in outpatient settings experienced significantly smaller reductions in pain.

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“The cumulative evidence indicates that CAT can decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain and increase quality of life among cancer patients after treatment,” the authors write. “The effects are greatly diminished during follow-up.”

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