Music therapy can help teenagers and young people cope better when faced with treatment for cancer, a study in Cancer journal suggests.
American researchers followed the experiences of a group of patients aged 11-24 as they produced a music video over three weeks.
They found the patients gained resilience and improved relationships with family and friends.
All the patients were undergoing high-risk stem-cell transplant treatments.
To produce their music videos, the young patients were asked to write song lyrics, record sounds and collect video images to create their story.
They were guided by a qualified music therapist who helped the patients identify what was important to them and how to communicate their ideas.
When completed, the videos were shared with family and friends through “premieres”.
After the sessions, the researchers found that the group that made music videos reported feeling more resilient and better able to cope with their treatment than another group not offered music therapy.
Also, 100 days after treatment, the same group said they felt communication within their families was better and they were more connected with friends.
These are among several protective factors identified by researchers that they say help teenagers and young adults to cope in the face of cancer treatments.
Lead study author Dr Joan Haase, of Indiana University School of Nursing, said: “These protective factors influence the ways adolescents and young adults cope, gain hope and find meaning in the midst of their cancer journey.
“Adolescents and young people who are resilient have the ability to rise above their illness, gain a sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others.”
When researchers interviewed the patients’ parents, they found that the videos also gave them useful insights into their children’s cancer experiences.
Sheri Robb, a music therapist who worked on the study, explained why music was particularly good at encouraging young people to engage.
She said: “When everything else is so uncertain, songs that are familiar to them are meaningful and make them feel connected.”
Cancer Research UK says music therapy can help people with cancer reduce their anxiety and improve their quality of life. It can also help to reduce some cancer symptoms and side-effects of treatment – but it cannot cure, treat or prevent any type of disease, including cancer.
Previous studies looking at the effects of music therapy on children with cancer found that it could help reduce fear and distress while improving family relationships.
A spokesperson for Teenage Cancer Trust said getting children with cancer to co-operate and communicate was most important.
“Every day in UK, around seven young people aged between 13 and 24 are diagnosed with cancer. We know that being treated alongside others their own age makes a huge difference to their whole experience, especially if it’s in an environment that allows young people with cancer to support each other.”