Spirituality: Its Impact on Breast Cancer Patients

Spirituality does help with breast cancer adjustment.

Posted Sep 12, 2011

Does spirituality make a difference in how a patient adjusts to breast cancer?  According to the following studies, the answer is yes.  It does depend, however, on whether spirituality was already part of a patient's life prior to diagnosis.

Two studies by Yanez, et al. (2009) examined the relationship between spiritual wellbeing and psychological adjustment.   In the first study, two components of spirtual wellbeing, meaning/peace and faith, were examined in 418 patients with breast cancer.  The study found that the following factors predicted a decline in depressive symptoms and an increase in vitality across 12 months:

  • A higher meaning/peace score at the beginning of the study
  • An increase in meaning/peace over six months

In the second study, meaning/peace and faith were examined in 165 cancer survivors.  It was found that an increase in meaning/peace was related to:

  • Improved mental health
  • Lower cancer-related distress

In a study by Wildes et al. (2009), a significant positive correlation was found between religiosity/spirituality and quality of life in Latina breast cancer survivors.  Quality of life factors included social wellbeing, functional wellbeing, and a patient's relationship with her doctor.   High religiosity/spirituality was also a predictor for better functional wellbeing and satisfaction with the doctor-patient relationship. 

Already having spiritual/religious beliefs prior to a diagnosis of breast cancer appears to make a difference in adjustment.  A study by Gall, et al. (2009), found that women who had less spiritual/religious involvement prior to their cancer diagnosis, and then employed spiritual/religious resources during treatment, may experience spiritual struggle and doubt that could impact their long-term adjustment.


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