Bach for Your Prostate

Music eases anxiety of medical procedure.
April 1, 2012

When Don Young needed a biopsy to test for prostate cancer, he was ap- prehensive about the procedure. But he got some help from an unexpected source.

Johann Sebastian Bach.

Classical distraction: Music reduces stress by blocking biopsy noises.

 Young, of Durham, was among a group of patients at the Duke Cancer Institute who listened to Bach concertos on head- phones during prostate biopsies, part of an experiment to see whether music eased patients’ nerves during the often-uncom- fortable procedure. It did: Researchers found that patients listening to Bach had lower blood pressures during the proce- dure and reported feeling less pain than those without music.

In a typical year, about 700,000 men in the U.S. have prostate biopsies, the only reliable diagnostic test for prostate cancer. The subjects in the Duke study received a type of biopsy involving an ultrasound probe and a spring-loaded needle, which makes a loud noise when released. The noise alone often causes elevated stress and blood pressure levels in patients.

A group of medical students came up with the idea to block the sound with Bach. And in Young’s case, it worked— even though he’s not a big fan of classical music.

“The music, it actually took my mind somewhere else,” says Young. “It really calmed me, and before I knew it, the whole thing was over.”