One possible take-home point of the study seems to be that the arts are "going to help you in the short term but not the long term," said Matthew Loscalzo, administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif.
Loscalzo reviewed the study findings and speculated as to why the arts may help, at least during the short term.
It might be that the relationships that form during the creative arts participation help the patients focus on something else, he said. Or the music, art or writing themselves could be a simple distraction that moves the mind away from anxiety, depression and pain. "I think it is both," Loscalzo said.
One limitation of the study, Loscalzo said, is that the groups participating in the arts were compared to a waiting list, usual care or no treatment. It could have been valuable, he said, to compare the arts to other interventions, such as reading a book or meditating.
Still, Loscalzo said, it's a step forward that a journal as prestigious as JAMA published the findings.
Cancer patients seeking to find creative arts classes can ask their doctor or the resource center at their cancer center. They are still not commonplace, Loscalzo said. "[At City of Hope], we screen and ask patients what would be helpful," he said. They offer yoga, cooking classes, music, art and other opportunities.
If a patient's doctor or cancer center does not know of any such opportunities, Puetz suggested seeking out an art, music or dance class in the community. Senior centers and community colleges might offer the classes. Even if the classes are not specifically designed for patients with cancer, "there are no negative consequences," Puetz said.
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