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Meditation, Music Help Ease Pain, Anxiety, Fatigue During Breast Biopsy

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A small study has found that women who listened to a recorded meditation had less pain, anxiety, and fatigue while they were having a breast biopsy.

Women who listened to music during the biopsy also had less anxiety and fatigue, but the women who listened to the meditation had the best outcomes.

The study was published online on Feb. 4, 2016 by the Journal of the American College of Radiology. Read the abstract of “Imaging-Guided Core-Needle Breast Biopsy: Impact of Meditation and Music Interventions on Patient Anxiety, Pain, and Fatigue.”

In the study, 121 women who were going to have a breast biopsy at the Duke Cancer Institute randomly got one of three techniques as they were having breast biopsy:

  • one group listened to a recorded meditation that focused on being loving, kind, and compassionate, as well as building positive emotions and releasing negative emotions
  • one group listened to music: their choice of instrumental jazz, classical piano, harp and flute, nature sounds, or world music
  • one group got standard care, which was supportive or comforting conversations with a radiologist or technologist

Right before and after the biopsy, the women completed questionnaires that measured their nervousness and anxiety, feelings of weakness and fatigue, and the pain of the biopsy.

Biopsy Meditation
Source: Mark Dubowski for Duke Health

Women who listened to either the meditation or music had bigger drops in anxiety and fatigue after the biopsy than women in the standard care group. The women in the standard care group said their level of fatigue was higher after the biopsy.

Women who listened to the meditation also had less pain during the biopsy compared to women who listened to music.

"Listening to guided meditation resulted in significantly lower biopsy pain during imaging-guided breast biopsy, and both meditation and music reduced patient anxiety and fatigue," said Mary Scott Soo, M.D., associate professor of radiology at the Duke Cancer Institute and lead author of the study. "There are medical approaches to this -- providing anti-anxiety drugs -- but they sedate patients and require someone to drive them home.

"Meditation is simple and inexpensive, and could be a good alternative in these settings," she added. "We would like to see this study scaled up to include a multi-center trial, and see if the findings could be generalized to different practices."

If you’re going to be having a breast biopsy, you may be feeling worried, upset, fearful, and anxious -- all perfectly normal reactions. As this study shows, listening to a relaxing meditation or music during the biopsy can help you both physically -- the procedure may be less painful -- and psychologically -- you’ll likely feel less anxious.

If the center where you’re having your biopsy doesn’t offer an option to listen to a meditation or music during the procedure, you may want to ask your surgeon if you can listen to your own on a portable music player and headphones.

There are many positive affirmation sites on the Internet. You can listen to some and decide which one works best for you.

For more information on biopsies, visit the Biopsy page. For more information on meditation, visit the Meditation page in the Complementary & Holistic Medicine section.

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