Background: The diagnosis of cancer creates a wide range of social and emotional problems to patients and carers. However, delivering effective psychological, emotional, and social support remains a challenge. This pilot study evaluated quality of life (QoL) and lung function before and after three months of choral singing in cancer survivors and their carers.
Methods: At baseline, 30 cancer survivors and their carers, mean (range) age 60 (10), completed questions about QoL (SF-36), anxiety and depression, and the multidimensional fatigue score. Lung function was measured by spirometry, and respiratory muscle strength
(maximal inspiratory pressure, MIP; maximal expiratory pressure, MEP) was also measured. Assessments were repeated after three months of singing in the choir, and 10 participants completed semi-structured interviews to explore their experience of the choir.
Results: After three months of choral singing, 20 subjects repeated the assessments. Several domains of the SF-36 improved, including vitality, social functioning, mental health, and bodily pain. There was also a trend of reduced anxiety and depression, despite no change in fatigue. Spirometric measures of lung function were unchanged; however, there was a trend of increased MEP. Themes from the interviews revealed that the choir provided a focus, so the future participants felt uplifted and had greater confidence and self-esteem.
Conclusions: This pilot project provides preliminary data which suggest choral singing may improve QoL and depression, despite no physiological change in cancer survivors and their carers. Choral groups offer a support mechanism applicable to cancer patients, carers, and supporters, and may be relevant to other chronic conditions. Further research examining the efficacy of this intervention in a larger controlled study is warranted.