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Art therapy can lower pain and anxiety in cancer patients, according to a new study which reviewed the impact of that therapy on patients with haematological cancers. The study published in the European Journal of Cancer Care showed that art therapy eased a risk of symptoms related to pain and anxiety in cancer patients as well as improved mood.

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For the research 21 female and 10 male patients were admitted to the inpatient bone marrow transplant and haematologic services at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine-Rochester in the US. Patients were invited to participate in a brief bedside visual art intervention (BVAI) facilitated by art educators with an aim to teach art techniques for approximately 30 minutes. A total of 19 female and 2 male patients participated.

The results of the study found significant improvements in participants’ positive mood and pain scores as well as a reduction in negative mood and anxiety.

Patients grasped BVAI as overall positive (95 percent) and wished to participate in future art-based interventions (85 percent).

The study suggests that art therapy can be used next to the standard treatments for patients with symptoms related to mood and pain

“Cancer patients are increasingly turning to alternative and complementary therapies to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and boost their ability to cope with stress,” says another study’s author Judith Paice, Ph.D., RN, director, Cancer Pain Program, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Art provides a vehicle for expression,” says Dr. Paice. “It may be preferential to some cancer patients who may be uncomfortable with conventional psychotherapy or those who find verbal expression difficult.”