Clinician Article

Dance/movement therapy for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients.

  • Bradt J
  • Shim M
  • Goodill SW
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jan 7;1:CD007103. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007103.pub3. (Review)
PMID: 25565627
Read abstract Read evidence summary
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Psychiatry
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Oncology - Breast
    Relevance - 3/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7


BACKGROUND: Current cancer care increasingly incorporates psychosocial interventions. Cancer patients use dance/movement therapy to learn to accept and reconnect with their bodies, build new self-confidence, enhance self-expression, address feelings of isolation, depression, anger and fear and to strengthen personal resources.

OBJECTIVES: To update the previously published review that examined the effects of dance/movement therapy and standard care versus standard care alone or standard care and other interventions on psychological and physical outcomes in patients with cancer.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2014, Issue 6), MEDLINE (OvidSP, 1950 to June week 4, 2014), EMBASE (OvidSP, 1980 to 2014 week 26), CINAHL (EBSCOhost, 1982 to July 15 2014), PsycINFO (EBSCOhost, 1806 to July 15 2014), LILACS (Virual Health Library, 1982 to July 15 2014), Science Citation Index (ISI, 1974 to July 15 2014), CancerLit (1983 to 2003), International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance (1989 to July 15 2014), the National Research Register (2000 to September 2007), Proquest Digital Dissertations, ClinicalTrials.gov, and Current Controlled Trials (all to July 15 2014). We handsearched dance/movement therapy and related topics journals, reviewed reference lists and contacted experts. There was no language restriction.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included all randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials of dance/movement therapy interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in patients with cancer. We considered studies only if dance/movement therapy was provided by a formally trained dance/movement therapist or by trainees in a formal dance/movement therapy program.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently extracted the data and assessed the methodological quality, seeking additional information from the trial researchers when necessary. Results were presented using standardized mean differences.

MAIN RESULTS: We identified one new trial for inclusion in this update. In total, the evidence for this review rests on three studies with a total of 207 participants.We found no evidence for an effect of dance/movement therapy on depression (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.02, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.28 to 0.32, P = 0.89, I2 = 0%) (two studies, N = 170), stress (SMD = -0.18, 95% CI -0.48 to 0.12, P = 0.24, I2 = 0%) (two studies, N = 170), anxiety (SMD = 0.21, 95% CI -0.09 to 0.51 P = 0.18, I2 = 0%) (two studies, N = 170), fatigue (SMD = -0.36, 95% -1.26 to 0.55, P = 0.44, I² = 80%) (two studies, N = 170) and body image (SMD = -0.13, 95% CI -0.61 to 0.34, P = 0.58, I2 = 0%) (two studies, N = 68) in women with breast cancer. The data of one study with moderate risk of bias suggested that dance/movement therapy had a large beneficial effect on 37 participants' quality of life (QoL) (SMD = 0.89, 95% CI 0.21 to 1.57). One study with a high risk of bias reported greater improvements in vigor and greater reduction in somatization in the dance/movement therapy group compared to a standard care control group (N = 31). The individual studies did not find support for an effect of dance/movement therapy on mood, mental health, and pain. It is unclear whether this was due to ineffectiveness of the treatment, inappropriate outcome measures or limited power of the trials. Finally, the results of one study did not find evidence for an effect of dance/movement therapy on shoulder range of motion (ROM) or arm circumference in 37 women who underwent a lumpectomy or breast surgery. However, this was likely due to large within-group variability for shoulder ROM and a limited number of participants with lymphedema.Two studies presented moderate risk of bias and one study high risk of bias. Therefore, overall, the quality of the evidence is very low.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We did not find support for an effect of dance/movement therapy on depression, stress, anxiety, fatigue and body image . The findings of individual studies suggest that dance/movement therapy may have a beneficial effect on QoL, somatization, and vigor. However, the limited number of studies prevents us from drawing conclusions concerning the effects of dance/movement therapy on psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients.

Clinical Comments


I thought it was important to rate this article (only 3 studies and 270 subjects represented) to remind us that it is important to "know" ( as in recognize) what we "don't know".

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