Meditation Helps Relieve Pain From Breast Cancer Biopsy

By Devon Andre,
October 25, 2019 Updated: October 25, 2019

Meditation and music may be effective for pain relief and anxiety management in breast cancer biopsy patients. A new study conducted at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C. revealed alternative methods of helping patients cope with pain and stress during the procedure.

Standard ultrasound-guided needle biopsy is usually performed using a very thin needle. The fine needle aspiration method is the least invasive type of breast cancer biopsy, causing minimal discomfort. The pain from the needle is usually manageable. However, other factors that may affect one’s experience may come into play, such as individual pain threshold, psychological predisposition (e.g., fear of needles), and anxiety associated with the procedure and diagnosis.

Due to physical and emotional discomfort, the patient may not be able to hold still during the procedure and may thus jeopardize the results of the test.

“Image-guided needle biopsies for diagnosing breast cancer are very efficient and successful, but the anxiety and potential pain can have a negative impact on patient care,” explained study lead author Dr. Mary Scott Soo. “Patients who experience pain and anxiety may move during the procedure, which can reduce the effectiveness of biopsy, or they may not adhere to follow-up screening and testing,”

In the study, 121 women were evaluated during ultrasound-guided needle biopsies. Some participants listened to recorded meditation, which aimed to instill positive attitude and get rid of negative emotions. The second option was listening to the music. Patients could choose between instrumental jazz, classical piano, harp and flute, nature sounds, or world music. The third group of women were provided standard patient care, which was small-talk conversation and support from the doctor performing the biopsy.

Women who listened to meditation or music during the biopsy experienced much less anxiety and fatigue, in comparison to the standard care patients. Additionally, the participants in the meditation group experienced much less pain from the biopsy than women who listened to music.

Anti-anxiety medications are also an option to resort to for pain and stress relief during the breast cancer biopsy. However, the sedating effects of drugs limit patients’ mobility and independence, as they will need to rely on someone to drive them home afterwards. Meditation and music, on the other hand, offer an affordable and simple alternative to drugs.

The researchers hope to scale up the study and see whether these results could be generalized to different practices.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.


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