Art therapy improved depression and influenced fatigue levels in cancer patients on chemotherapy

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Abstract

Introduction: Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to depression and anxiety, with fatigue as the most prevalent symptom of those undergoing treatment. The purpose of this study was to determine whether improvement in depression, anxiety or fatigue during chemotherapy following anthroposophy art therapy intervention is substantial enough to warrant a controlled trial.

Material and methods: Sixty cancer patients on chemotherapy and willing to participate in once-weekly art therapy sessions (painting with water-based paints) were accrued for the study. Nineteen patients who participated in ⩾4 sessions were evaluated as the intervention group, and 41 patients who participated in ⩽2 sessions comprised the participant group. Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI) were completed before every session, relating to the previous week.

Results: BFI scores were higher in the participant group (p=0.06). In the intervention group, the median HADS score for depression was 9 at the beginning and 7 after the fourth appointment (p=0.021). The median BFI score changed from 5.7 to 4.1 (p=0.24). The anxiety score was in the normal range from the beginning.

Conclusion: Anthroposophical art therapy is worthy of further study in the treatment of cancer patients with depression or fatigue during chemotherapy treatment. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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