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Cancer patients and music: (prospective) results from a survey to evaluate potential complementary treatment approaches

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Many cancer patients (PTS) suffer from somatic or non-somatic symptoms. Studies have shown positive effects of music intervention (MI) on aspects of quality of life or symptom management.


Since there are poor data available about patient’s needs regarding the use of MI as an adjunct to cancer treatment, n = 548 tumor PTS were polled anonymously at the outpatient department of the University Hospital Mannheim Tumor Center using a self-designed questionnaire. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.


486 data sets were eligible for analysis. 240 of the PTS were male and median age was 63 years. 38% had metastatic disease. 81% (n = 386) were currently receiving anti-tumor treatment. The majority of the PTS stated to have somatic symptoms. However, some of the PTS reported non-somatic symptoms like anxiety, loneliness, and depression. N = 187 (40%) of the PTS reported interest in complementary MI. In the univariate and multivariate analyses, especially PTS with non-somatic complaints and PTS, actively playing or making music showed significantly more interest in complementary MI, hoping for a relaxing therapeutic effect. PTS who play instruments would prefer more active forms of MI.


40% of PTS reported interest in additional MI during cancer treatment. PTS with non-somatic symptoms as well as patients affine to music might benefit from the use of MI potentially reducing their symptom burden. The inconsistent and heterogeneous data from randomized trials underline the importance of systematic research approaches with more relevant and standardized endpoints.

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No Funding was received for the current study.

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Correspondence to Deniz Gencer or Ralf-Dieter Hofheinz.

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There are no conflicts of interest of any of the authors.

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The current study is in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the local ethic committee (Medizinische Ethik-Kommission II, University of Heidelberg).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Gencer, D., Diel, A., Klotzbach, K. et al. Cancer patients and music: (prospective) results from a survey to evaluate potential complementary treatment approaches. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 145, 2141–2148 (2019).

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  • Music intervention
  • Complementary
  • Cancer patients
  • Symptom distress