This PhD study set out to investigate the effect of a short-term receptive music therapy approach in women undergoing active medical treatment for breast or gynaecological cancer. Research demonstrates the physical and psychological vulnerability of cancer patients throughout medical treatment trajectory, caused by the existential thread that still often accompanies a cancer diagnosis despite great advances in medical treatment options. Furthermore, complex, multimodal long-term medical treatments cause severe side-effects affecting physical and psychological well-being and quality of life (QoL) of persons with cancer.
In music therapy, research from the last decades has shown beneficial effects in different cancer populations and phases of treatment trajectory. Investigations in women with gynaecological cancer, and at the beginning of early palliative medical outpatient treatment are scarce. No short-term group intervention has been described.
The present mixed-methods study aimed at investigating the influence of Group Music and Imagery (GrpMI) therapy on the psychological outcomes anxiety, depression, quality of life, and well-being among women diagnosed with breast or gynaecological cancer at the beginning of curative or early palliative medical outpatient treatment. In a 2x4 factorial design, N = 28 women were randomly assigned to GrpMI + treatment as usual (TAU) or Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) + treatment as usual (TAU) in six sessions over six weeks. This clinical effect study was conducted at HELIOS, Dr. Horst Schmidt Kliniken Wiesbaden, Germany.
Quantitative data was collected by the use of standardised questionnaires HADS, EORTC QLQ-C30, and Basler Befindlichkeitsskala (Basel Scale of Well-Being, BBS) at pre-test, post-test, 4-weeks FU, and 4-months FU. In addition, semistructured interviews with all participants at baseline and with GrpMI participants post-intervention provided qualitative data.
Analysis of quantitative data using descriptive and parametric statistics revealed statistically and clinically significant results for reduction of anxiety in GrpMI. Reduction of depression and enhancement of QoL and well-being were found statistically and clinically significant in both intervention groups. These results were sustained or even further improved at FU measures.
Findings from qualitative analysis added clinical meaning to the statistical results and showed improved coping skills and benefits from the group setting after GrpMI therapy.
Overall, this PhD study contributes to research and clinical practice by updating current evidence in the field, providing statistically and clinically significant results from a short-term group intervention in an under-researched population and place in treatment trajectory, and by merging statistical evidence with qualitative findings to provide a multidimensional understanding of the experience of the study participants.