Promotion of Well-being During Treatment for Childhood Cancer: A Literature Review of Art Interventions as a Coping Strategy

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Abstract

Background:

Scientific literature suggests that art interventions can assist children with cancer cope with physical and psychosocial difficulties associated with cancer treatment. Little is known about how the making of tangible visual art can be helpful and which proposed therapeutic mechanisms are clinically important.

Objective:

The purpose of this literature review is to assess and synthesize the research evidence regarding the role of art therapy/art-making interventions for promoting the well-being of children with cancer undergoing treatment.

Methods:

A search of electronic databases (MEDLINE [PubMed], CINAHL, PsycINFO) and EBM Reviews including Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (OVID) and manual review of references in articles accessed were undertaken. Inclusion criteria were as follows: research studies of any design; children with cancer undergoing treatment (2–21 years old), and art therapy/art-making intervention. Data extraction and quality appraisal were undertaken. Data were analyzed with an author-developed review sheet and synthesized into a table.

Results:

Six articles reporting 6 studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies were based on qualitative (n = 3) and mixed quantitative/qualitative (n = 3) methodologies. Three outcome categories emerged that outline potential therapeutic roles of art interventions.

Conclusions:

Though sparse and developmental in nature, the existing evidence suggests that art interventions may potentially promote the well-being of children undergoing cancer treatment by reducing anxiety, fear, and pain and promoting collaborative behaviors; enhancing communication with the treatment team; and counteracting the disruption of selfhood that cancer treatment evokes.

Implications for Practice:

Further and higher-quality research is warranted before routinely integrating standardized art interventions into the treatment protocols for children with cancer.

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