Guided Meditation Reduces Pain During Breast Biopsy

Patients who listened to guided meditation or music during their biopsy reported significantly greater reductions in anxiety and fatigue than standard care.

For women undergoing breast biopsy, guided meditation appears to ease anxiety, fatigue, and pain, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. The investigators also found that music is an effective approach, but to a lesser extent.

“Image-guided needle biopsies for diagnosing breast cancer are very efficient and successful, but the anxiety and potential pain can have a negative impact on patient care,” Mary Scott Soo, MD, associate professor of radiology at Duke Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “Patients who experience pain and anxiety may move during the procedure, which can reduce the effectiveness of biopsy, or they may not adhere to follow-up screening and testing.”

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The researchers randomly assigned 121 women undergoing breast biopsies at Duke into 3 groups: a guided meditation group, a music group, and a standard-care control group.

The meditation group listened to a “loving-kindness” script that focused on building positive emotions—such as compassion toward oneself and others—and releasing negative emotions as they underwent stereotactic and ultrasound-guided biopsy. Patients in the music group listened to their choice of either instrumental jazz; classical piano, harp, and flute; nature sounds; or world music. The biopsy team provided supportive and comforting dialogue to standard-care patients.

Immediately before and after the biopsy, the participants completed questionnaires measuring anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), biopsy pain (Brief Pain Inventory), and fatigue (modified Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue). After the biopsy, participants also completed questionnaires assessing radiologist-patient communication (modified Questionnaire on the Quality of Physician-Patient Interaction), demographics, and medical history.

The researchers found that after biopsy, participants in the meditation and music groups reported significant reductions in anxiety (p-values<0.05). The standard-care group reported increased fatigue after biopsy.

“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,” Dr Soo said. “There are medical approaches to this — providing antianxiety 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,” Dr Soo added. “We would like to see this study scaled up to include a multicenter trial and see if the findings could be generalized to different practices.”


Soo MSC, Jarosz J, Wren A, et al. Imaging-guided core needle breast biopsy: impact of meditation and music interventions on patient anxiety, pain, and fatigue. J Am Coll Radiol. 2016; Feb 5 [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2015.12.004.