Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 14, Issue 8, pp 859–866 | Cite as

The clinical effects of music therapy in palliative medicine

  • Lisa M. Gallagher
  • Ruth Lagman
  • Declan WalshEmail author
  • Mellar P. Davis
  • Susan B. LeGrand
Original Article



This study was to objectively assess the effect of music therapy on patients with advanced disease.

Patients and methods

Two hundred patients with chronic and/or advanced illnesses were prospectively evaluated. The effects of music therapy on these patients are reported. Visual analog scales, the Happy/Sad Faces Assessment Tool, and a behavior scale recorded pre- and post-music therapy scores on standardized data collection forms. A computerized database was used to collect and analyze the data.


Utilizing the Wilcoxon signed rank test and a paired t test, music therapy improved anxiety, body movement, facial expression, mood, pain, shortness of breath, and verbalizations. Sessions with family members were also evaluated, and music therapy improved families’ facial expressions, mood, and verbalizations. All improvements were statistically significant (P<0.001). Most patients and families had a positive subjective and objective response to music therapy. Objective data were obtained for a large number of patients with advanced disease.


This is a significant addition to the quantitative literature on music therapy in this unique patient population. Our results suggest that music therapy is invaluable in palliative medicine.


Music therapy Palliative medicine Cancer Symptoms 



We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Kulas Foundation and The Music Therapy Program Fund. We thank Lisa Rybicki, MS, for performing the statistical analysis and Becky Michel and Lisa McKelvey, music therapy interns, for their contributions to the sessions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa M. Gallagher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruth Lagman
    • 1
  • Declan Walsh
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Mellar P. Davis
    • 1
  • Susan B. LeGrand
    • 1
  1. 1.The Harry R. Horvitz Center for Palliative Medicine (A World Health Organization Demonstration Project), Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer CenterCleveland Clinic FoundationClevelandUSA
  2. 2.The Cleveland Music School SettlementClevelandUSA
  3. 3.The Harry R. Horvitz Chair in Palliative MedicineCleveland Clinic FoundationClevelandUSA

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