It’s always nice when a scientific study proves what most of us already know: A cancer treatment doesn’t have to involve drugs and a hospital to be effective. And sometimes a good treatment is even FREE.
New research shows music therapy is clearly effective. A scientific review published in August in The Cochrane Reviews shows music can reduce anxiety and pain for cancer patients. That’s because cancer is more than just a physical problem. It also brings emotional pain.
The review included 30 separate studies of more than 1,800 participants who experienced "music intervention." Music was used as a complementary therapy for patients who underwent standard clinical treatments like radiation, chemotherapy and, in some cases, surgery.
One of the most interesting things about this review was that it considered the patients’ music preferences. Patients weren’t asked to listen to standard-order classical music or soothing nature sounds. They chose their own tunes. This meant even heavy metal and hip-hop made the cut in terms of sounds that provide benefits.
Whatever Floats Your Boat
The study indicates that the style of music used doesn’t seem to matter in music therapy — you should go with your own preferences. My gut feeling is that there’s a flaw in this idea, but the researchers found any kind of music can do the job.
But it could be true to this extent: Music therapy doesn’t just soothe. It’s not all about relaxation. It’s also a way to cope with anxiety about your next hospital visit or treatment session. There are other benefits, too, including small improvements in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
Of course, the researchers were quick to note the potential for bias in something so subjective. All the same, plenty of studies show music activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex. Music makes you feel better.
There’s hardly anything bad you can say about music therapy, especially if you’re looking at it as a way to improve conventional treatments like chemotherapy. Music involves very little cost and has virtually no side effects.
If it brings the patient renewed hope and rejuvenation, as these studies say, then it certainly won’t hurt and likely helps. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Potential Decline In Prostate Cancer Overtreatment
In other cancer good news, researchers are getting a new view of prostate cancer. Overtreatment is a big concern in prostate cancer. It can result in serious side effects that last a lifetime, including impotence and incontinence. At least, that’s true of surgery and radiation — the most commonly used therapies for prostate cancer.
That makes it especially interesting to learn that researchers in Sweden and Seattle have identified genetic markers to help pinpoint men with the most aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Most prostate cancer is not aggressive. It’s best left alone. But a small number of prostate tumors — supposedly about 10 percent — grow like crazy and kill fast. That’s what makes so many men and nearly all cancer doctors so willing to hack and burn without pausing to ask if the cancer is aggressive or not.
A test to identify which prostate cancers are aggressive would, thus, be a huge step forward. Recent discoveries offer hope.
The newly identified markers are gene variants known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are gaining ground as indicators for disease progression. In the study, DNA samples from more than 4,000 prostate cancer patients were analyzed for gene variants. Twenty-two SNPs were linked to prostate cancer-specific death; five of those showed significant association.
This discovery could translate to a basic blood test that separates those who need aggressive treatment from those who have non-aggressive prostate cancers.
Prostate cancer kills 30,000 men each year. Roughly 200,000 prostate cancers are diagnosed annually. It tends to be slow-growing, and most men diagnosed are likely to die of other causes before the cancer turns deadly. Still, most prostate cancer patients tend to be treated with radiation or surgery, since there’s no reliable way to figure out whether their cancers are aggressive. At least, that’s been the case until now.
The next step for the researchers involved in this study is to confirm their findings on different groups of patients; let’s hope their results are as promising as this preliminary research.
Dogs Recognize Cancer
On another cancer front, research confirms that dogs can smell cancer. This startling news recently surfaced from Germany. Researchers there tested whether dogs could tell the difference between test tubes with breath samples of cancer patients versus those without cancer.
The dogs, which were trained to lie down in front of the test tubes where they smelled cancer and touch the vials with their noses, had a surprising 71 percent success rate.
Dogs have actually been able to sniff out several forms of the disease, including breast cancer, bowel cancer and colon cancer. An early theory is that cancer cells produce chemical compounds which circulate throughout the body. These same compounds can exit the body in gaseous form via the lungs, affecting the breath of those with the disease.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how to use dogs as cancer-detection aids, but current thinking points to some kind of early detection process. These findings at least clue us in to the fact that there must be compounds in the breath of patients with cancer. Hopefully, this will be translated into some kind of early warning sign for those likely to develop cancer.
The next step is figuring out what those compounds are. For now, it’s not necessarily useful information, but it sure is interesting.