Music therapy was reported to diminish cancer-related fatigue in a cross-sectional mixed-method study. These findings were published in JCO Oncology Practice.

A total of 436 patients were assigned to 1 of 3 licensed music therapists to receive active (360 patients; eg, singing or selecting songs) or passive (76 patients; eg, listening) music therapy. Patients were assessed for their cancer-related fatigue symptoms by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale.

Mean age of participants was 62.6 (standard deviation, 13.4) years, the majority were women (65.1%), and they had varying malignancies (hematologic [29.6%], digestive [20.6%], gynecologic [10.3%], breast [6.7%], respiratory [6.2%], noncancer [6.0%], genitourinary [6.0%], soft tissue [5.5%], unknown [5.5%], skin [2.3%], and multiple primaries [1.1%]) at varying stages (unknown [49.6%], metastatic [25.1%], regional [13.2%], and localized [12.1%]).

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Focusing only on patients (54.1%) who rated their baseline fatigue as moderate to severe (4 or higher), fatigue scores in patients undergoing active therapy decreased from 6.29 to 3.6, and among patients undergoing passive therapy, scores decreased from 6.83 to 4.83. Compared with passive therapy, patients in the active music therapy group had a 0.88-point greater reduction in cancer-associated fatigue (95% CI, 0.26-1.51; P =.006).

Some limitations of this study were the nonrandom design and the pooling of patients with differing malignancies at differing stages, making it unclear whether music therapy was effective for patients in all cancer treatment settings.

The conclusions drawn from these data were that all cancer patients with a baseline level of fatigue benefited from music therapy, with active singing or choosing music more effective than passive listening.

Disclosure: Multiple authors declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.


Atkinson TM, Liou KT, Borten MA, et al. Association between music therapy techniques and patient-reported moderate to severe fatigue in hospitalized adults with cancer [published online July 8, 2020]. JCO Oncol Pract. doi:10.1200/OP.20.00096.