COLUMBUS, OhioMany aspects of cancer patient care can be
improved or enhanced with the use of music therapy, said Deforia
Lane, PhD, resident director of music therapy, University Hospitals
of Cleveland-Ireland Cancer Center/Rainbow Babies &
Childrens Hospital, and assistant clinical professor of
medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Lane, a
board-certified music therapist, spoke at a conference on cancer
survivorship sponsored by the Ohio State Universitys James
Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.
Music can contribute to patient comfort before and after surgery,
even decreasing the amount of analgesia needed, Dr. Lane said. After
surgery, music can encourage a reluctant patient to move sore limbs.
Music can also banish anxiety and raise depressed spirits.
Allowing patients to choose a particular piece of music from a
range of selections offers patients control even in situations where
otherwise little else is within their control, she said.
Music therapy is the structured use of music in the treatment of
illness and disease. Music therapists are certified by the
Certification Board for Music Therapists and have their own
membership organization, the American Music Therapy Association. Dr.
Lane estimates that about 5,500 board-certified music therapists are
currently working in a variety of settings, including hospices and hospitals.
Clinicians are taught that it takes several repetitions for a
patient to absorb information, Dr. Lane said. Not only must the
message be restated several times, but ideally it should be restated
in several different ways. One of those ways is music,
In her address, she demonstrated how she integrates music into
patient care. While singing, When Youre Smiling,
she led conference attendees in some simple movements that could
accompany the song, including bending at the trunk and flexing the
arms. In this manner, she suggested, music therapists and
occupational therapists could work together to choreograph songs with
body movements that encourage extension, flexion, and rotation.
In situations where a patient is balking at occupational or physical
therapy, the music therapist can come in the back door to
encourage participation, she said. By combining the movements the
patient needs to learn with the music the patient prefers, the
exercise becomes more appealing to the patient. With this approach,
Dr. Lane has found that patients do more repetitions with less
complaining, and their perception of pain drops.
Dr. Lane brings music into patients hospital rooms with her
trained singing voice and her frequent use of an omnichord, an
electronic instrument she referred to as my right arm.
Lightweight and portable, an omnichord provides musical accompaniment
in a wide variety of chords and rhythms. It can also be strummed like
a guitar by running a finger along a touch-sensitive area known as a strum-plate.
Dr. Lane recalled one especially angry patient who refused to move
her arm after surgery for breast cancer. Frustrated, the womans
physician asked Dr. Lane to intercede. She described how she pulled
in nurses, physicians, and the womans daughter to sing
One! from the musical A Chorus Line and to gesture with
paper plates as if they were top hats. (The conference audience, well
supplied with paper plates, also participated in this demonstration. See
photo) Faced with such an enthusiastic crowd of singers, the
patient reluctantly joined in, lifting her paper plate and, thus, her arm.
Music can also soothe feelings of anxiety and ease the frustration of
hospitalization. For example, a leukemia patient in her 20s who
dreaded the hours after midnight found comfort in the company of a
nurse who sat with her and played the guitar. Frequent music sessions
with Dr. Lane and the omnichord provided diversion for a 4-year-old
girl who dreaded a thrice-daily blood draw.
Music During Surgery
A recent study demonstrated that patients who were able to
listen to music during surgery required 43% less analgesia, Dr.
Lane said. The Yale study examined awake patients undergoing urologic
procedures who were able to control their own sedative and analgesic
requirements with patient-controlled pumps (Anesthesiology
Dr. Lane herself has provided the music during surgery at the
University Hospitals of Cleveland. She has sung the Hallelujah
Chorus and My Girl for patients who were awake and
aware during their operations, and in some cases has even asked the
surgeon to sing along with her. She said that her research has shown
that music therapy significantly affects the immune system (Lane D:
Effects of music therapy on immune function of hospitalized patients.
Quality of Life: A Nursing Challenge 3(4):74-80, 1994).
Dr. Lane has also given patients headsets for listening to music
during surgery. This has been especially useful, she said, in those
instances when the surgeon planned to listen to music that the
Music for Celebration
Music, traditionally used for celebration and tribute, can also
function in that manner in the hospital. Dr. Lane has written songs
for the discharge day of oncology patients who have undergone long
hospitalizations. She has also helped dying patients write songs.
A tape recording of Dr. Lane singing the patients song can
become the patients final gift to family and loved ones. I
enter a persons life at a vulnerable state and offer them the
simple gift of music, Dr. Lane said.
She urged the audience to make music part of routine patient care.
She said that nurses can invite their patients to listen to music
with headsets as they give baths, change dressings, or administer
injections. Music can be used in many places and instances to
give patients a little bit more control, she said.
Dr. Lane also encouraged her audience to promote the idea of having a
music therapist on staff at their hospitals. The average starting
salary for a music therapist in the Midwest is $32,000. If the cost
of a full-time therapist is prohibitive, she said, then the hospital
can consider hiring one part-time or consulting occasionally with a
Dont ever underestimate what one voice can do, Dr.
Lane concluded. As an example, she described how she came to record
the song We Can Cope for the American Cancer Society in
1983. The song was originally written simply to honor the breast
cancer support group Dr. Lane attended after her own cancer
treatment. Unbeknown to her, the social worker leading the group
contacted the ACS who, in turn, contacted Dr. Lane.
At the conference, Dr. Lane expressed gratitude to that social worker
and urged the audience, in closing, to follow her example of making
music in hospital rooms. Im no one special, she
said, no more special than you.