Role of Arts Therapy in Patients with Breast and Gynecological Cancers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Palliat Med. 2021 Mar;24(3):443-452. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2020.0468. Epub 2021 Jan 27.


Background: Women with breast and gynecological cancers often experience adverse symptoms such as anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue. Objective: The purpose of this meta-analysis was to clarify the role of arts therapy (based on music, painting, and dance) in quality of life and reported symptoms among women with breast and gynecological cancers. Methods: Articles on arts therapy were retrieved from relevant electronic databases through to May 2020. The outcomes (quality of life and symptoms such as anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue) were estimated according to standard or validated scales that assessed psychological status and activities of daily living. The effect sizes for arts therapy were combined to show the standardized mean difference (SMD) and corresponding confidence interval (CI), and a random-effects model was used for computation. Results: In total, 19 randomized controlled studies were included in this meta-analysis. The pooled SMDs for arts therapy were statistically significant for quality of life (0.58; 95% CI: 0.02-1.13; p = 0.04), anxiety (-1.10; 95% CI: -1.88 to -0.32), depression (-0.71; 95% CI: -1.19 to -0.23), pain (-1.01; 95% CI; -1.97 to -0.08), and fatigue (-0.59; 95% CI: -1.18 to -0.00). However, the summary SMDs for arts therapy was not significant for sleep disturbance, anger, vigor, tension, confusion, and stress. Conclusion: This meta-analysis shows that arts therapy has favorable effects on improving quality of life and depression among patients with breast and gynecological cancers. Arts therapy also has positive effects on improving anxiety, pain, and fatigue symptoms among patients with breast cancer. Further studies are required to confirm the effect of arts therapy on anxiety, pain, and fatigue in patients with gynecological cancer.

Keywords: anxiety; art therapy; depression; fatigue; pain; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression / therapy
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Quality of Life*