Music helps kids with cancer connect and cope



It’s hard enough being a teenager these days and trying to relate with family and peers.  Throw a cancer diagnosis into the mix and many teens report feeling overwhelmingly isolated, even within their main support group.  Could music videos break down this wall of isolation for teenagers and young adults with cancer?  A new study suggests that they may help teens cope with their illness and stay connected to their loved ones.


Researchers evaluated 113 kids aged 11 to 24 who were being treated for cancer.  Most of them had either leukemia or lymphoma.  All of the kids in the study were undergoing stem cell infusions – a treatment program that requires grueling cycles of back-to-back chemotherapy and radiation.  The treatment breaks down the immune system in such a way that the kids are often weak, nauseaus, and hospitalized for weeks on end.


For the study, researchers broke the kids into two groups.  One group was assigned to work with a music therapist – writing song lyrics and recording a music video, while the other group was asked to listen to audiobooks.  At the end of the study, the kids in the music video group were able to invite their friends and families to watch the video’s premiere


Researchers noted that the kids who made music videos reported feeling more positive about their illness and their situation than the kids who listened to audiobooks.  And after checking in again with the kids a few months later, they found that these same kids reported feeling more connected to their support group of doctors, friends, and family than the kids in the other group.


The study’s authors think that the music project help kids deal with their feelings – and their isolation – while undergoing the stem cell treatment.  And it helped them connect with their support group and share their thoughts along the way.


The hope is that the results of this study will encourage more hospitals and treatment centers to include music therapy programs within their treatment protocols for kids suffering from any kind of serious illness that leaves them feeling isolated at a time in their lives when social connection is so important.

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