Online Exclusive Article

Perspectives on Music Therapy in Adult Cancer Care: A Hermeneutic Study

Anne Olofsson

Bjöörn Fossum

music therapy
ONF 2009, 36(4), E223-E231. DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E223-E231

Purpose/Objectives: To explore perspectives on music therapy as a nursing intervention in adult cancer care and to expand and integrate knowledge and understanding about music therapy as an adjunctive intervention in adult cancer nursing care.

Data Sources: Published nursing articles.

Data Synthesis: Medical and nursing journals have reported on research related to music and its effect as a nursing intervention. However, this research often lacks a musical context (i.e., knowledge and understanding from a musical perspective).

Conclusions: Music therapy is not a consistent concept. Perspectives on the meanings of music therapy vary according to knowledge and scientific orientation. The perspective may influence the character and methodology of the music therapy intervention as well as the understanding of its results.

Implications for Nursing: To fully develop music therapy as an adjunct intervention in adult cancer care, interdisciplinary cooperation between nurses and music therapists should be supported on clinical and educational levels.

Jump to a section


    Aldridge, D. (1994a). Music therapy in palliative care: New voices. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Aldridge, D. (1994b). An overview of music therapy research. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2(4), 204-216.
    Aldridge, D. (1996). Music therapy research and practice in medicine. From out of the silence. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Aldridge, D. (2002). Research in complementary therapies; papers revisited and continued. Retrieved December 10, 2007, from
    Aldridge, D. (2003). Music therapy references relating to cancer and palliative care. British Journal of Music Therapy, 17(1), 17-25.
    Arman, M., & Rehnsfeldt, A. (2003). The hidden suffering among breast cancer patients: A qualitative metasynthesis. Qualitative Health Research, 13(4), 510-527.
    Beck, S. (1991). The therapeutic use of music for cancer-related pain. Oncology Nursing Forum, 18(8), 1327-1337.
    Ben-Arye, E., Frenkel, M., & Margalit, R.S. (2004). Approaching complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with cancer: Questions and challenges. Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 27(1), 53-62.
    Biley, F.C. (2000). The effects on patient well-being of music listening as a nursing intervention: A review of the literature. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 9(5), 668-677.
    Block, K.I., Block, P., & Gyllenhaal, C. (2004). The role of optimal healing environments in patients undergoing cancer treatment: Clinical research protocol guidelines. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(Suppl. 1), 157-170.
    Bonde, L.O. (2005). The Bonny method of guided imagery and music (BMGIM) with cancer survivors. A psychosocial study with focus on the influence of BMGIM on mood and quality of life. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Aalborg University, Denmark.
    Bozuk, H., Artac, M., Kara, A., Ozdogan, M., Sulp, Y., Topcu, Z., et al. (2006). Does music exposure during chemotherapy improve quality of life in early breast cancer? Medical Science Monitor, 12(5), 200-205.
    Bruscia, K. (1998). Defining music therapy (2nd ed.). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
    Burns, D.S. (2001). The effect of the Bonny method of guided imagery and music on the mood and quality of life of cancer patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 38(1), 51-65.
    Burns, S.J., Harbuz, M.S., Hucklebridge, F., & Bunt, L. (2001). A pilot study into the therapeutic effects of music therapy at a cancer help center. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 7(1), 48-56.
    Cepeda, M.S., Carr, D.B., Lau, J., & Alvarez, H. (2006). Music for pain relief. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2, CD004843.
    Chlan, L.L. (2000). Music therapy as a nursing intervention for patients supported by mechanical ventilation. AACN Clinical Issues, 11(1), 128-138.
    Cohen, J., Cullen, J.W., & Martin, L.R. (1982). Psychosocial aspects of cancer. New York: Raven Press.
    Cohen, M. (1982). Psychosocial morbidity in cancer: A clinical perspective. In J. Cohen, J.W. Cullen, & L.R. Martin (Eds.), Psychosocial aspects of cancer (pp. 117-128). New York: Raven Press.
    Cook, J. (1986). Music as an intervention in the oncology setting. Cancer Nursing, 9(1), 23-28.
    Coughlan, A. (1994). Music in the ICU. Nursing Times, 90(17), 35.
    Covington, H., & Crosby, C. (1997). Music therapy as a nursing intervention. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 35(3), 34-37.
    Danhauer, S.C., Marler, B., Rutherford, C.A., Lovato, J.F., Asbury, D.Y., McQuellon, R.P., et al. (2007). Music or guided imagery for women undergoing colposcopy: A randomized controlled study of effects on anxiety, perceived pain, and patient satisfaction. Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, 11(1), 39-45.
    Dileo, C., & Loewy, J.V. (2005). Music therapy at the end of life. New York: Jeffrey Books.
    Dong, G., & Cassileth, B. (2005). Integrative oncology: Complementary therapies for pain, anxiety, and mood disturbance. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 55(2), 109-116.
    Evans, D. (2002). The effectiveness of music as an intervention for hospital patients. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 37(1), 8-18.
    Ezzone, S., Baker, C., Roselet, R., & Terepka, E. (1998). Music as an adjunct to antiemetic therapy. Oncology Nursing Forum, 25(9), 1551-1556.
    Frank, J. (1985). The effects of music therapy and guided visual imagery on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Oncology Nursing Forum, 12(5), 47-52.
    Geffen, J.R. (2004). Creating optimal healing environments for patients with cancer and their families: Insights, challenges, and lessons learned from a decade of experience. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(Suppl. 1), S93-S102.
    Good, M., Picot, B.L., Salem, S.G., Chin, C.C., Picot, S.F., & Lane, D. (2000). Cultural differences in music chosen for pain relief. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 18(3), 245-260.
    Halstead, M., & Roscoe, S. (2002). Music as an intervention for oncology nurses. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 6(6), 332-336.
    Hanser, S. (2005). Music therapy to enhance coping in terminally ill adult cancer patients. In C. Dileo & J.V. Loewy (Eds.), Music therapy at the end of life (pp. 33-43). New York: Jeffrey Books.
    Haun, M., Mainous, R., & Looney, S. (2001). Effect of music therapy on anxiety of women awaiting breast biopsy. Behavioral Medicine, 27(3), 127-132.
    Heal, M., & Wigram, T. (1992). Music therapy in health and education. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Henry, L. (1995). Music therapy: A nursing intervention for the control of pain and anxiety in the ICU: A review of the research literature. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 14(6), 295-304.
    Herth, K. (1978). The therapeutic use of music. Supervisor Nurse, 9(9), 22-23.
    Holland, J.C. (2003). Psychological care of patients: Psycho-Oncology's contribution. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21(23, Suppl.), 253-265.
    Holland, J.C., & Lewis, S. (2000). The human side of cancer. New York: Harper-Collins.
    Johnston, K., & Rohaly-Davis, J. (1996). An introduction to music therapy: Helping the oncology patient in the ICU. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly, 18(4), 54-60.
    Jonas, C. (1994). True presence through music. Nursing Science Quarterly, 7(3), 102-103.
    Kammrath, I. (1989). Music therapy during chemotherapy. Krankenpflege [Nursing Care], 6, 282-283.
    Kemper, K., & Danhauer, S. (2005). Music as therapy. Southern Medical Journal, 98(3), 282-288.
    Kenny, C., Jahn-Langenberg, M., & Loewy, J. (2005) Hermeneutic inquiry. In B. Wheeler (Ed.), Music therapy research (2nd ed., p. 340). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
    Kwekkeboom, K. (2003). Music versus distraction for procedural pain and anxiety in patients with cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 30(3), 433-440.
    Lawenda, B. (2006). Integrative oncology: Tapping into a research gold mine. Cancer Journal, 12(6), 455-458.
    Lindholm, L., Rehnsfeldt, A., Arman, M., & Hamrin, E. (2002). Significant others' experience of suffering when living with women with breast cancer. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 16(3), 248-255.
    Markman, M. (2001). Interactions between academic oncology and alternative/complementary/integrative medicine: Complex but necessary. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 19(18, Suppl.), 52-53.
    Martin, J. (1989). The next step forward: Music therapy with the terminally ill. New York: Calvary Hospital.
    McCaffrey, R., & Locsin, R. (2002). Music listening as a nursing intervention: A symphony of practice. Holistic Nursing Practice, 16(3), 70-77.
    McCloskey Dochterman, J.C., & Bulechek, G.M. (Eds.). (2004). Nursing interventions classification (NIC) (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
    Milton, D. (1998). Alternative and complementary therapies: Integration into cancer care. AAOHN Journal, 46(9), 454-461.
    Munro, S., & Mount, B. (1978). Music therapy in palliative care. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 119(9), 1029-1034.
    National Library of Medicine. (2007). Medical subject headings. Retrieved October 26, 2007, from
    Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Petersen, E.M. (2005). Music therapy in oncology at the National Institute of Cancer. Retrieved October 20, 2007, from
    Pope, D.S. (1995). Music, noise, and the human voice in the nurse-patient environment. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 27(4), 291-296.
    Sabo, C., & Michael, S. (1996). The influence of personal message with music on anxiety and side effects associated with chemotherapy. Cancer Nursing, 19(4), 282-289.
    Schneck, D.J., & Berger, D.S. (2006). The music effect: Music physiology and clinical applications. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Siedliecki, S., & Good, M. (2006). Effect of music on power, pain, depression, and disability. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 54(5), 553-562.
    Smith, M., Casey, L., Johnson, D., Gwede, C., & Riggin, O. (2001). Music as a therapeutic intervention for anxiety in patients receiving radiation therapy. Oncology Nursing Forum, 28(5), 855-862.
    Standley, J. (1995). Music as a therapeutic intervention in medical and dental settings. Research and clinical applications. In T. Wigram, B. Saperston, & R. West (Eds.), The art and science of music therapy: A handbook (pp. 3-22). Florence, KY: Routledge.
    Sutherland, K. (2005). Can music help us heal? Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(3), 29-31.
    Twycross, R.G., & Wilcock, A. (2002). Symptom management in advanced cancer (3rd ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Radcliffe Medical Press.
    Updike, P. (1990). Music therapy results for ICU patients. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 9(1), 39-45.
    Vachon, M.L.S. (2007). The emotional problems of the patient in palliative medicine. In D. Doyle, G. Hanks, N.I. Cherny, & K. Calman, (Eds.), Oxford textbook of palliative medicine (3rd ed., pp. 961-985). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
    Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. (n.d.). About Voices. Retrieved August 15, 2007, from
    von Allmen, G., Wasem, C.H., & Fischer, J. (2004). Importance of timing of music therapy in chemotherapy of cancer patients. Praxis, 93(34), 1347-1350.
    Wheeler, B. (2005). Music therapy research (2nd ed.). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
    Wigram, T., Pedersen, I.N., & Bonde, L.O. (2002). A comprehensive guide to music therapy: Theory, clinical practice, research, and training. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Wilkins, M.K., & Moore, M.L. (2004). Music intervention in the intensive care unit: A complementary therapy to improve patient outcomes. Evidence-Based Nursing, 7(4), 103-104.
    World Federation of Music Therapy. (2006). Definition of music therapy. Retrieved August 15, 2006, from
    Yates, J.S., Mustian, K.M., Morrow, G.R., Gillies, L.J., Padmanaban, D., Atkins, J.N., et al. (2005). Prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use in cancer patients during treatment. Supportive Care in Cancer, 13(10), 806-811.
    Young-Mason, J. (2002). Music therapy: A healing art. Clinical Nurse Specialist, 16(3), 153-154.
    Zappa, S., & Cassileth, B. (2003). Complementary approaches to palliative oncological care. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 8(1), 22-26.
    Zimmerman, L., Pozehl, B., Duncan, K., & Schmitz, R. (1989). Effects of music in patients who had chronic pain. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 11(3), 298-309.