One out of every four deaths in the United States this year will be due to cancer. 580,350 Americans per day are expected to die of the second most common death in the U.S. according to the American Cancer Society's Cancer Facts & Figures 2013.

The survival rate of cancer patients has increased throughout the years from 49 percent to 68 percent from 1975 to 2008. The survival statistics adhere to new advances in modern medicine that have facilitated the improvement of early detection and treatment in cancer patients.  

Treatment protocols, other health issues, and biological and behavioral factors are taken into account in the determination of the life expectancy rate of individuals with the life-threatening illness.

A diagnosis of cancer can be physically and psychologically damaging to an individual who feels they have lost control of their health and life. A connection between the mind, body, and soul is essential to overcome the health complications that cancer patients experience. The well-being of an individual who's diagnosed with cancer goes beyond the convention forms of treatment and even post-treatment.

The employment of creative and expressive therapy, among cancer patients during treatment and remission, has demonstrated numerous health benefits that allow an individual to effectively communicate their physical and emotional problems through alternative techniques of healing.

Regain control of your health and learn about the health benefits of the five creative therapies that increase life expectancy in cancer patients after their initial diagnosis.

1. Art therapy.

The ability to hold a pencil or a paintbrush is the only requirement needed for this therapy. Artistic self-expression allows for an individual to solve conflicts, control behavior and stress, improve self-esteem, develop self-awareness and insight, and build interpersonal skills, according to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). To view or create art has positive healing effects for cancer patients due to its ability to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Studies have found a link between painting and the changes in brain wave patterns that can alter hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.

With the occurrence of breast cancer and its increasing survival rate, Katherine Collie, author of a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, investigated how women with breast cancer utilized art therapy to address psychosocial needs after they received their initial diagnosis. The 17 participants of this study, aged 37-82, found improvements in their physical and psychological health and quality of life. The value of creative expression became a foundation for psychosocial support for women who may have stopped working or had the illness affect their personal relationships. "Visual representations were important to some women in the study simply because they gave visual, concrete, and clear form to experience," said Collie.

Art therapy can provide end-of-life benefits for people with terminal cancer. A study conducted at the Hospice Palliative Care Unit in Taipei Veteran General Hospital, from April 2001 to December 2004, accessed the impact of therapy in patients who were under hospice care. The results of the study showed that those who were in deteriorating health conditions and facing death went from inactivity to actively creating artworks that allowed them to overcome physical distress and interpret the pain into art. 70 percent of patients felt fairly or very relaxed in their emotional state and 5.1 percent of patients felt much or very much better physically. "They were able to experience a sensation of nonverbal communication, and soothe the pressure and discomfort from illness," said Yu-Cheng Kuo, one of the researchers in the study.

2. Dance therapy.

Dance/movement therapy (DMT) helps individuals achieve greater self-awareness and a positive sense of well-being. The interpretation of DMT is the release of muscle tension and constrained movement patterns that is caused by mental and emotional problems in the body, said JL Hanna in "The power of dance: health and healingpublished in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

People who suffer from dementia, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and Parkinson's disease, and survivors of breast cancer, have reaped the benefits of this gratifying, uplifting, and engaging exercise. In a study conducted at two cancer centers in Connecticut, the effect of DMT and quality of life and shoulder function in breast cancer survivors treated five years prior was examined. The results confirmed that women who participated in the dance therapy had a better range of motion in their shoulders compared to their counterparts and an improved perception of their body image.

The physical motions applied in DMT are known to provide the same health benefits generated by different exercises. According to the American Cancer Society, physical activity is linked to the increase of endorphins, which evoke a feeling of well-being. Moving your body stimulates other body systems, such as the circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, and muscular systems to help people stay fit and create rhythmic motions using their bodies.  

3. Drama therapy.

The involvement of drama contributes to the connection of the body, mind, and spirit through its healing powers. People with chronic illnesses are able to take their memory and emotions in the body and relive them through dramatic interpretation. Madeline Andersen-Warren and Roger Grainger, authors of Practical Approaches to Dramatherapy: The Shield of Perseus, said, "For people who are anxious, confused, depressed, emotionally exhausted or numbed by what happened to them, dramatherapy provides an experience very different from the way of being themselves which they have grown accustomed to and can see no prospect of ever being released from."

The use of theatrics boosts self-esteem and promotes better mental health. Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPs) in the United Kingdom has art, music, and drama therapists that work with cancer patients and use the psychological and social potentials of the arts to aid patients who have experience physical, communication, and health issues. Cancer patients who have the conditions or symptoms of alteration in body image, fatigue, and energy management and pain are advised to seek this form of creative therapy to facilitate this transition.

In London, the neuro-oncology service at King's College Hospital did a six-week dramatherapy program that was developed by three dramatherapists from Beam Dramatherapy Group, who had been researching the use of dramatherapy in palliative care. The six-week program, was divided into groups of members who had brain tumors from newly diagnosed patients to those who were further into their treatment. At the beginning of the program, patients struggled to come to terms with their condition but at the end of treatment, they were able to express the reality of their situation and identify their goals with other brain tumor patients. The results of the study showed that anxiety levels stayed the same or decreased throughout the six weeks. All members showed interest in attending support groups for their condition after the end of the program.

4. Music therapy.

Music is used to address the emotional, psychological, cognitive, physical and social needs of a patient. The physical effects of this form of therapy include reduced high blood pressure, lower rapid heart rate, improved depression and anxiety, and relief from insomnia, says the American Cancer Society. In patients who receive a high-dose of radiation, music therapy has been used to alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Patients who have undergone bone-marrow transplants have reported less pain and nausea if they participate in music therapy, say scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center. 42 patients, aged five and 65, who were being treated for various types of cancers such as, leukaemias, lymphomas, and solid tumors were part of the study. Half of the patients were exposed to music therapy after their transplants and the others received standard care. The results of the study showed that the patients who took part in music therapy sessions showed less pain and nausea; at the beginning of the session they said their symptoms were "severe" and after the session their symptoms were "moderate."

"Nurses and doctors originally thought that the patient had to be playing or singing along, but passive listening or simply the presence of the therapist providing music itself can be therapeutic," said researcher Dr. OJ Sahler.

 

5. Writing therapy.

It's time to put paper to pen. Writing therapy provides cancer patients with the ability to write their own feelings about the treatment they undergo. It is a method to track their symptoms, reactions, and interactions with the medical staff. This provides an alternative to the standard treatments cancer patients turn to such as support groups, psychotherapy, or antidepressant drugs to cope with the issues that their illness brings to their lives.

Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center viewed 42 patients who had metastatic renal cell carcinoma, also known as kidney cancer. In the Phase II clinical trial, patients were randomly assigned to an expressive writing group or neutral writing group. In the expressive writing group, patients wrote about their cancer and in the other group, patients wrote about their health behaviors. Although there were no significant differences in distress, perceived stress, or mood disturbance, patients in the expressive writing group reported less sleep disturbance, and better quality sleep and sleep duration along with less daytime dysfunction. The conclusion of this study illustrated that expressive writing could have sleep-related health benefits in cancer patients.

An extensive look at the five creative therapies that provide alternative healing methods for cancer patients during and after treatment suggests great rates of success for increased longevity and positive self-images.