Music medicine — listening to music as a distress reduction tool — during chemotherapy infusion appeared linked to benefits in mood and distress in a recent study. Results were reported in JCO Oncology Practice.

In this multisite, open-label study, adults were assigned to receive either music during outpatient chemotherapy infusion or no music during infusion in block randomization based on the day they enrolled in the study. Patients receiving the music intervention were able to choose from music provided on a device with 500 minutes of music available, with an option to choose a musical genre.

Patients were assessed before and after the intervention for self-reported outcomes that included change in pain, positive and negative mood, and distress. A visual analog scale was used to assess pain, the Positive and Negative Affect Scale was used for evaluating mood, and the Distress Thermometer was used for evaluating patient distress. Additional data were also evaluated.

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The analysis included 708 patients overall, with 376 patients in the music intervention group and 332 in the control group; mean patient age overall was 60.39 years. Cancer treatment consisted of chemotherapy only in 83% of patients of each treatment group. Stage III or IV cancer was present in 58% of patients overall, and 30% of the study population reported using anxiety/allergy medication prior to infusion.

Patients most commonly (28%) chose “Motown” as the musical genre for listening, with “hits from the 80s” being the second most commonly (20%) chosen. Regarding their music selection, most (90%) patients reported being satisfied or very satisfied. Patients listened for a mean of 56.68 minutes of a 60-minute listening period.

Significant differences were seen between treatment groups in terms of changes in outcomes following the intervention. Compared with patients in the control group, those receiving the music intervention reported significant benefits in terms of improved positive mood, decreased negative mood, and decreased distress postintervention. The groups did not show a significant difference in terms of change in pain following the intervention, however.

A multivariable analysis was also performed to evaluate additional factors related to change in outcomes before and after the intervention. Patients who were married or widowed showed a greater likelihood of a benefit in positive mood from the music intervention, compared with divorced, separated, or never married patients.

Patients on disability showed more of a decrease in distress from the music intervention, in comparison with patients having full-time employment or in retirement.

“In conclusion, the results of this rigorously designed large-scale, randomized trial of music medicine stand as evidence for the benefit of a music intervention for patients during chemotherapy infusion,” the study investigators wrote in their report.

Disclosures: Some authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.


Harper FWK, Heath AS, Moore TF, Kim S, Heath EI. Using music as a tool for distress reduction during cancer chemotherapy treatment. JCO Oncol Pract. Published online July 11, 2023. doi:10.1200/OP.22.00814