The ESAS is a numeric scale allowing patients to assess their symptoms of pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, lack of appetite, well-being and shortness of breath. Eight of these nine symptoms improved; nausea was the only symptom that did not change as a result of the art therapy session. Fifty patients from the inpatient oncology unit at Northwestern Memorial were enrolled in the study over a four-month period.

"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 Judith Paice, PhD and director of the Cancer Pain Program. "Art therapy provides a distraction that allows patients to focus on something positive instead of their health for a time, and it also gives patients something they can control," explained Paice.

Each art therapy session was individualized and patients were offered a choice of subject matter and media. When participants could not use their hands or were not comfortable using the art materials, the art therapist would do the art making under the direction of the subject or they could look at and discuss photographic images that were assembled into a book. Sessions ranged from light entertaining distraction to investigating deep psychological issues, says Nancy Nainis, an art therapist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who is the lead author on the study. "We were especially surprised to find the reduction in tiredness. Several subjects made anecdotal comments that the art therapy had energized them. This is the first study to document a reduction in tiredness as a result of art therapy," says Ms. Nainis.

MEDICA.de; Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital