A brief bedside visual art intervention may be effective in mediating cancer-related mood symptoms and pain, according to research published in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

A cohort of 21 patients (19 women) with a hematologic malignancy each participated in a one-on-one visual art intervention conducted by a trained art educator for a mean duration of 42 minutes. Interventions were conducted either actively or passively, and included the use of watercolors, oil pastels, colored pencils, and clay. As primary outcome measures, investigators captured pre- and post-intervention changes along the visual analog scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scale.

Trial scientists observed an improvement in mood, anxiety, and pain scores with exposure to art intervention. Patients showed a positive mood increase of 14.6% (P =.003) and a negative mood decrease of 18.0% (P =.016) on the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scale. Post-intervention, patients also showed a 21.6% reduction in anxiety symptoms (P =.001). In patients who reported pain at baseline, the mean visual analog scale improved 35.1% (P =.017). On the post-intervention questionnaire, 95% of patients reported the experience as positive, and 85% stated that they would be open to future art-based interventions.

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Researchers concluded that art-based intervention could be easily implemented as an adjunct to conventional therapies for cancer-related pain and mood symptoms. Investigators suggested future studies involving more balanced gender participation and a larger cohort to affirm these findings and expand treatment options for patients. 


Saw JJ, Curry EA, Ehlers SL, et al. A brief bedside visual art intervention decreases anxiety and improves pain and mood in patients with haematologic malignancies [published online April 17, 2018]. Eur J Cancer Care. doi:10.1111/ecc.12852