Friday, August 21, 2015

Cancer Patients Who Hold Spiritual Views Feel Better

Health & Wellness

Prayer: The study’s authors write: “Future research should focus on how relationships between religious or spiritual involvement and health change over time, and whether support services designed to enhance particular aspects of religion and spirituality in interested patients might help improve their well-being.”
Source: TimesLive

An article from Reuters and posted in The Jerusalem Post says that cancer patients who have some kind of spiritual or religious view of a benevolent God report that they do better in treatment and that they fell better, despite a cancer diagnosis; it is important to note that this was a self-assessment rather than a qualitative result. Why this is so is not completely understood, but the chief idea is that the distress of having cancer is counterbalanced by “knowing a higher power is in control.” It can simply be stated as a belief in transcendence.

The study, a meta-analysis involved 44,000 individuals, accounting for a wide range of cancers, was published in the journal Cancer (“How Religious and Spiritual Beliefs Relate to Cancer Patients’ Physical, Mental, and Social Well-Being”). One of the study’s authors was Heather Jim of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. (She is quoted in the article.)

The article (“Spirituality may be tied to easier cancer course”; August 10, 2015) says:
For the impact of spirituality on physical health, the studies included more than 32,000 adult cancer patients with a range of cancer types and stages. Higher religious or spirituality scores were generally associated with better overall health.
A sense of connection to a being larger than oneself was associated with better physical function and fewer, or less severe, symptoms of cancer or treatment, according to patient reports. Intrinsic religious belief was also tied to better physical function. Actual practice of religion, like church attendance, prayer, or meditation, was not related to physical health. 
“Cancer patients who reported higher meaning, purpose, and spiritual connection in life also reported better physical health, as did patients who reported more positive religious or spiritual explanations for the cancer (versus a sense of fatalism or anger towards God),” Jim said.
Religious people may engage in more healthy behaviors, avoiding things like alcohol and drugs, and religious communities may provide social support, transportation to appointments, provision of meals and other basic needs, she said.Spirituality may enhance positive emotion such as love, forgiveness, and comfort and reduce stress, she added.
I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2012, and underwent the usual course of treatment; I had the full range of emotions associated with knowledge of a life-altering disease. What had a positive effect on my recovery and well-being was not only a personal belief that I was going to get better, but also the support I received from family and friends. That belief affects health and wellness ought to be an important area of medical research, since it places some of the power of “healing” in the hands of patients themselves.

Such thinking makes patients not helpless beings, but as partners working alongside the medical community in bettering their outcomes. Doctors mean well, but their training  likely works against this idea. The medical community is slow to recognize this reality, fearing a loss of control and perhaps prestige. But change will take place; these kind of large studies supporting and encouraging these necessary modifications.

Patients can positively affect how they feel about having a cancer diagnosis; and what this study also tells me is that any outside support a patient feels that he or she is getting does improve over-all outcomes. Kindness and generosity goes a long way; it shows that someone cares. Whether this support is from a higher power, or from family or from friends, the essential point is that there is support. This includes, for many, support that is spiritual or mystical in nature. The ideas of transcendence need further exploration.

For more, go to [JPost]

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