Mindfulness-Based Music Therapy & Chemotherapy


Cancer is a dangerous affliction that remains one of the primary causes of human mortality, along with heart and lung diseases (WHO, 2017). Out of all available methods of treatment, chemotherapy remains the most reliable way of counteracting cancer in the early stages of the disease, sporting the highest success rates (Lesiuk, 2015). However, chemotherapy is associated with various negative side effects on the human body and mind. Finding non-invasive methods of counteracting the side effects of the treatment is paramount to improving the overall health of chemotherapy patients and popularization of early treatment. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the article titled “The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Music Therapy on Attention and Mood in Women Receiving Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: A Pilot Study” by Teresa Lesiuk, analyze its core components, and determine its implications for evidence-based nursing practice.

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Research Question

The research question is not explicitly stated in this study. However, the implicit questions of the research can be summarized as (Lesiuk, 2015):

  • What is the effect of MBMT (Mindfulness-Based Music Therapy) on the attention span of women diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy?
  • What is the effect of MBMT on patient mood?

The choice of the research question was motivated by a lack of academic studies on the effects of music-based therapy on mental capabilities of chemotherapy patients. At the same time, the background section of the article indicated that many patients suffer from the “chemobrain” side effect of the therapy, which is characterized by reduced capacity for learning, information intake, and concentration, as well as reduced amounts of gray matter in the upper layers of the brain (Lesiuk, 2015). These factors have prompted the researchers to choose the implicit question stated above as the main reason to conduct the experiment.

Research Design

The researchers chose a descriptive longitudinal design for this research. Its purpose was to determine the effect of MBMT on participant attention and participant mood using various measuring tools, such as Conners’ Continuous Performance Test and POMS-BF (Lesiuk, 2015). All participants have received individualized sessions of MBMT once a week for four weeks, which typically lasted for one hour. In addition, the participants had to perform musical and writing exercises for 15-20 minutes on a daily basis. The weekly 1-hour exercise was comprised of different stages, each of which served the purpose of preparing the mind for the exercise, enhancing focus, and anchoring attention of the patient (Lesiuk, 2015). The chosen method is one of the strongest available quantitative designs because it provides clear focus, validity, and high flexibility, coupled with greater accuracy when compared to cross-sectional studies (Fraley & Hudson, 2014). Its greatest weakness lies in accuracy over time, as the subjects are perceived to twist their responses to better fit the researcher’s assumed objectives (Hand & Crowder, 2017). However, in the scope of this study, the pros heavily outweigh the potential cons.

Research Sample

The sample for this study consisted out of 15 women in the first, second, and third stages of breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The requirements for the participants included the ability to fluently speak English and have no history of prior cognitive-damaging diseases (Lesiuk, 2015). The sample specification note states that out of 15 women, six were Caucasian white, six were Hispanic, two were African-American, and one – Asian. In my opinion, the sample size was too small for a descriptive longitudinal study, as that design typically requires large sample sizes in order to realize and validate the acquired data (Hand & Crowder, 2017). However, the small sample size was motivated by the lack of eligible candidates in the immediate vicinity who would fulfill the criteria for the study and be willing to participate in the research. Another gap in the sample size is related to the numbers of Asian and African-American participants. The majority of the sample size is constituted by Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, meaning that the results could not be properly extrapolated to other racial groups.

Data Collection Methods

Data collection was facilitated by the nurses working in the University of Miami, who were enlisted to aid in the research. The two primary data collection tools for this study are the Conner’s Continuous Performance Test II (CPT-II), which is a computerized test used to measure the patient’s attention, impulsivity, and vigilance, and the Profile of Mood States – Brief Form (POMS-BF), which is a mood scale utilized for detecting any changes and differentiating effects of experimental manipulations (Lesiuk, 2015). The researchers followed standard ethical guidelines in order to avoid any potential issues. The purposes and methods of the research design were clarified to the participants, and their written consent was received prior to the start of the experiment. The researchers followed the standard protocol for patient anonymity and personal data protection. No ethical conflicts were detected.

Limitations of the Study

The author identified several limitations for this study. The largest limitations are the small sample size as well as the absence of the wait-list control condition (Lesiuk, 2015). Another identified limitation is the fact that some of the patients were undergoing chemotherapy by the time the research started and were thus affected by its negative effects prior to the intervention, which could have affected the results. The discussion of these limitations is necessary, as it allows to assess the accuracy of findings as well as the possibility of extrapolation and expansion of data for future studies. The limitations of this study can be overcome in the future by involving a greater number of patients with different racial backgrounds as well as by taking into account the time and number of chemotherapy cycles each participant has undergone in the past (Lesiuk, 2015).

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Research Findings

The results of the pilot study indicate that the intervention was a success. The MBMT program managed to significantly improve attention over time in all patients, which is supported by previous findings, which indicate that mindfulness-based interventions have a positive effect on attention rates (Lesiuk, 2015). Musical stimuli also seem to have a positive effect on the patients’ mood, helping alleviate negative feeling and help reach a state of peace and emotional stability. Thus, the findings answer both implicit research questions positively. I believe that the results of the research are credible despite the relatively small number of the sample size. However, it is unclear whether the positive effects of the intervention are attributed strictly to the MBMT program or are the results of perceived attention coupled with the placebo effect and mental exercises. Additional research is required to make that distinction.


The pilot study analyzed in the scope of this paper provides valuable data about the effectiveness of MBMT in improving attention span and the mood of women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. It addresses important questions regarding the patients’ mental and emotional welfare and provides insights on how they are affected by mindfulness-based therapy. The results of the research have positive implications for implementation into practice. MBTB can be safely integrated into a chemotherapy patient’s rehabilitation program. The design of the research is relatively simple and can be easily replicated on a larger scale. It is concluded that MBTB is a perspective and cost-efficient way of counteracting the symptoms of the “chemobrain” condition often found in patients undergoing chemotherapy.


Fraley, R. C., & Hudson, N. W. (2014). Review of intensive longitudinal methods: An introduction to diary and experience sampling research. The Journal of Social Psychology, 154(1), 89-91.

Hand, D., & Crowder, M. (2017). Practical longitudinal data analysis. New York, NY: Chapman & Hall.

Lesiuk, T. (2015). The effect of mindfulness-based music therapy on attention and mood in women receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer: A pilot study. Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(3), 276-282.

WHO. (2017). The top 10 causes of death. Web.

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