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The Effects of Creative Art Therapy in Cancer

The Effects of Creative Art Therapy in Cancer

Many patients with cancer report using at least one complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy. Various CAM therapies appear to improve the psychological symptoms that are commonly linked to cancer and its treatment, including disease-related fatigue, pain, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Creative arts therapies (CATs)—which include drama therapy, writing therapy, music therapy, dance and movement therapy, and various forms of art therapy—have received less attention than other CAM therapies. Current clinical research on CATs has expanded from largely observational science to a wider, cross-disciplinary approach. Previous reviews have suggested that CATs may be useful adjuvant therapies to improve cancer- and treatment-related symptoms during and after treatment. To date, however, there has been no systematic review of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) examining the effects of CAT on psychological symptoms among cancer patients. A Comprehensive Review In JAMA Internal Medicine, my colleagues and I had a systematic review and meta-analysis published that used results from RCTs to evaluate the effect of CAT exposure on psychological symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in patients with cancer. In our review, we included 27 RCTs that involved more than 1,500 study participants. Our findings showed that CATs significantly reduced anxiety, depression, and pain and increased QOL after treatment. Pain appeared to remain significantly lower for patients using CAT when assessed at follow-up. Exposure to CAT did not appear to significantly reduce symptoms of fatigue after treatment or during follow-up, but these data are more difficult to interpret because the effects may be modality dependent. More specifically, reductions in anxiety were strongest in RCTs that had a non-CAT therapist administer the intervention as...
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