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Spiritual Support

Some people begin to question their faith or spirituality with a major life changing event such as being diagnosed with cancer. Research in the area of spirituality and religion in breast cancer patients tends to be in psychology as opposed to the medical aspects of the disease. Studies do show that individuals with a strong spiritual foundation have a higher quality of life after their diagnosis than those with no spiritual life.1

Spirituality is a very personal issue. A breast cancer diagnosis often forces people to at least think about their own mortality. Fear of death is a normal response, but hopefully you can find comfort and hope in your spirituality.

Hope and Meaning of Life

The first question that often comes to mind is, “Why me?” Having a religious or spiritual foundation can help answer this question as you discover the meaning of life. Faith is instrumental in your ability to look at life’s trials and not regard them as a punishment but as a chance to exercise your faith. Your faith also allows you to trust your God, who can comfort you when symptoms are difficult to manage. 2

Prayer and meditation in scripture are very important to building your spiritual life. It allows you to release your fears, stresses and worries and give them to your God. Ridding yourself of these stresses will allow you to focus on your health and make the best of your journey.

The Role of Spirituality

Women with breast cancer who regularly attend religious services report a stronger sense of connection with their community. They also report having more support and assistance when needed. The role of spirituality is to provide for your needs which vary from emotional support, assistance with daily activities during treatment and recovery and above all, encouragement to stay true in your faith.

Many religious leaders are trained in grief counseling and provide individual, spiritual-based counseling services for the members of their congregation. Women who attend church are more likely to access these services before seeking a counselor or therapist in the community. Research indicates that this may be associated with a variety of factors including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and educational level of the cancer patient.

Other research indicates that patients, who are highly religious, make choices that may seem odd to others when they have advanced stage cancer. They often chose hospice care sooner as opposed to undergoing highly aggressive treatment. In addition, they often had regular pastoral and reported higher quality of life scores near death.4

Measuring and quantifying the benefits of spirituality for patients with breast cancer is challenging. However, anecdotal and survey styles of reporting clearly indicate that for patients that are religious or spiritual the continued practice of their faith and spiritually during treatment is beneficial.

References

1 Mytko, J. J., & Knight, S. J. (1999). Body, mind and spirit: towards the integration of religiosity and spirituality in cancer quality of life research. Psycho-Oncology , 439-450.

2 Weaver, A. J., & Flannelly, K. J. (2004). The Role of Religion/Spirituality for Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers. Southern Medical Journal , 1210-1214.

3 Garland, S. N., Carlson, L. E., Cook, S., et al. (2007). A non-randomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and healing arts programs for facilitating post-traumatic growth and spirituality in cancer outpatients . Supportive Care in Cancer , 949-961.

4 Balboni, T. A., Paulk, M. E., Balboni, M. J., et al. (2010). Provision of Spiritual Care to Patients With Advanced Cancer: Associations With Medical Care and Quality of Life Near Death. American Society of Clinical Oncology , 445-452.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.