How favoured tunes can ease biopsy nerves

Mar 2022

Music, especially classical music, reduces discomfort and anxiety in men undergoing biopsy procedures.

Listening to favourite pieces of music can help men feel more relaxed during a prostate biopsy, according to new research. 

Around two-thirds of men report high levels of anxiety before a biopsy – when tiny samples of prostate tissue are taken to check for the presence of cancer – according to surveys. 

This is despite the fact that biopsies are usually carried out under a local anaesthetic and can take as little as ten minutes. 

During the procedure a doctor inserts a thin, hollow needle into the prostate – either through the rectum or through the skin between the scrotum and anus. 

When the needle is pulled out, it removes a small cylinder (or core) of prostate tissue. Biopsies can take longer and be more stressful if men are highly anxious or agitated. 

A number of studies have been carried out over the years to see if distracting patients with music can help. 

In the latest investigation, doctors from University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust in the UK, and the General Hospital Hall, Tirol, in Austria, pooled data from half-a-dozen previous studies to see if the overall evidence supported the use of music during a biopsy. 

They looked to see if being distracted by music eased discomfort and anxiety. 

The results, published in the latest Turkish Journal of Urology, revealed four of the six studies showed music significantly reduced both. What’s more, men who listened to music were more willing to undergo similar repeat procedures in the future than men who did not. 

In a report on the findings researchers concluded: ‘As music is simple, inexpensive and easily accessible, it should be routinely offered to biopsy patients.’ 

But does the type of music matter? Most studies allow volunteers to choose their own favourites. 

But a 2015 study by researchers at the Chungbuk National University in South Korea found classical music was especially effective. They got 76 men undergoing biopsies to wear headphones that played classical tunes or no music at all. 

Not only did the music group report less pain and anxiety but checks also revealed that heart rate and blood pressure – which were similar in the two groups before the experiment – were significantly lower afterwards in those exposed to classic music. 

And that’s not the only way to make the biopsy experience easier. 

Italian scientists recently found men who were allowed to wear a virtual reality headset featuring 360-degree images of natural landscapes reported lower levels of discomfort too.

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