Art Therapy Beneficial for Breast Cancer Patients
Working and creating with our hands can be incredibly soothing and satisfying activities. Recently, researchers from Umea University in Umea Sweden took that concept to the next level, and conducted a study of female breast cancer patients in relation to art therapy. The hope was that the women would use the art as a means of expression for the complicated thoughts and emotions that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. In the study, which was published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, researchers put 41 breast cancer patients into two groups. One group received five one-hour sessions of art therapy. The other group received no art therapy. All 41 women were undergoing radiation. Guided by a trained art therapist, the women in the experimental group utilized a wide selection of art materials, and enjoyed a space in which to be as creative as they wished.
All of the women completed three surveys about their self-image and life quality. The first was before beginning radiation, the second was two months after beginning radiation, and the third was six months after radiation treatment began. In looking at the surveys, the researchers found that the women receiving art therapy experienced improvement in general, physical, and psychological health, as well as their feelings on body image, the future, and radiation side effects. The women who did not receive art therapy only felt improvement in their psychological health. "[The findings] strongly support art therapy as a powerful tool in rehabilitation of patients with breast cancer and, presumably, also in the care of patients with other types of cancer," said researcher Dr. Jack Lindh. In 2006, a similar study was done at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
The participants included patients with various types of cancer. The findings, after four months of art therapy, indicated that patients were able to reduce symptoms of pain, anxiety, tiredness, depression, lack of appetite, and shortness of breath. People are looking more and more to alternative treatments and complementary methods for healing cancer. Art therapy would be considered a complementary method, as it is not used in place of conventional medical care, but as a method of easing side effects. In addition to the health and comfort benefits, doing art allows cancer patients to exercise control and creativity - things that cancer too often makes seem out of reach. The information from the Swedish team is a source of hope and encouragement for anyone with a cancer diagnosis.