Tamil Nadu

Music helps woman remain calm during mastectomy

A patient, who underwent palliative mastectomy for metastatic breast cancer, listened to music and sang a few lines of one of her favourite Ilaiyaraja songs during the procedure to reduce anxiety.

Seethalakshmi, a trained carnatic singer and a teacher, came to Apollo Proton Cancer Centre a few months ago with an advanced stage of breast cancer which had spread to other parts of the body, particularly lungs. Ms. Seethalakshmi, who had stayed away from allopathic medicine and tried alternative medicine for a few years, was barely able to talk.

Manjula Rao, consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon at the hospital, said that chemotherapy and targeted therapy significantly improved her condition. She was able to sing and resume online music classes for her students.

However, she had to subsequently undergo a palliative mastectomy for her ulcerated breast tumour. According to the doctors, she could not be administered general anaesthesia for the procedure as her lungs were affected due to the cancer.

Performing the surgical procedure under general anaesthesia was risky and may have necessitated ventilator and ICU care for many days,” said D. Indumathi, consultant anaesthesiologist at the hospital.

She said it was decided to perform epidural anaesthesia, which involved delivering the anaesthetic through a small catheter placed just inside the epidural space that is outside the spinal cord.

Mild sedation

Ms. Seethalakshmi was counselled by the doctors to reduce her anxiety about the procedure.

They said that it was decided to mildly sedate her during the procedure to mitigate the anxiety.

On the day of the procedure, the doctors played soothing music for Ms. Seethalakshmi. As her sedation wore off, she chatted with the doctors and sang a few lines of the song Karpoora bommai ondru , composed by Ilaiyaraja for the movie Keladi Kanmani .

“It is one of my favourite songs. It is a lullaby I sang for my children. There is a particular line in the song’s pallavi that can be sung properly only if your lung capacity is normal. Ever since my condition deteriorated, I used to sing this song often and record to see how well I was able to sing. With the treatment, I was able to get better and now sing it normally,” she said.

She thanked the doctors and other staff at the hospital for their sensitivity and personal attention.

Dr. Rao said that Ms. Seethalakshmi’s case was an example of how counselling, keeping the patient well informed of various options, and shared decision making, can help them go through critical surgery with such ease.

Harish Trivedi, chief executive officer, and Rakesh Jaleli, medical director of the hospital, congratulated the team.


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Printable version | May 25, 2022 5:56:20 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/music-helps-woman-remain-calm-during-mastectomy/article38341547.ece