Helping individuals to cope effectively with the many problems inherent in the cancer situation is a major challenge for those working in the oncology setting. Although by no means a cure-all, music, because of its many qualities, has numerous applications as an intervention for the coping process. Almost everyone relates to and enjoys music, whether participating in its creation by singing or playing an instrument, or by simply listening to it. Long recognized as a non-threatening form of communication, the “universal language” of music is capable of breaking down cultural, educational, linguistic, or emotional barriers. By eliciting feelings, thoughts, and memories, it can open lines of communication and serve as an outlet for emotions. Additionally, its use can be effective in treating physiologic problems, such as pain and insomnia. This article will acquaint the reader with the concept of music therapy, theoretical explanations for its effectiveness, areas of application in the oncology setting with corresponding case studies or research, and the role of the nurse in facilitating this intervention.
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