Doctors often tell cancer patients that they need to believe in their power of recovery and have a positive attitude towards the disease. Some patients even become more spiritual and they strongly believe that makes a difference.
A new study points out that spirituality has a positive effect on the evolution and treatment of cancer patients, as it improves their mental, physical and social status.
In order to reach such conclusions, the researchers looked at various studies that involved almost 45,000 cancer patients. Those who had faith were reported to have less damaging symptoms related to both cancer and the treatment they followed.
Moreover, the highly spiritual patients were less anxious and faced a lower risk of suffering from depression.
However, the lack of causality between spirituality and the improvements recorded in canter patients’ condition might prevent health experts from suggesting spiritual interventions during their treatment, according to the lead researcher John Salsman, who is an associate professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine, North Carolina.
“Medical care providers need to be attuned to the dark side of religion in patients with cancer,” he said. He also added that spiritual distress was linked to “poorer perceptions of health” with these patients.
Moreover, it is possible that the results might have been altered by various external factors. For example, people who said they were highly spiritual might have had the tendency to minimize the intensity of the symptoms associated with the disease or with the treatment.
Thus, they might be more likely to consider themselves healthier than they really are, compared to people who had lower self-reported spirituality.
This is why it is of utmost importance for researchers or health experts to look deeper into the matter before isolating these variables.
Nevertheless, a conclusion can be drawn from the study. That is, spirituality has an impact on patients who suffer from such serious diseases and this aspect should not be neglected by those who treat them.
“If a medical team allows space for these discussions to happen, it provides a better opportunity for patient-centered care,” said John Salsman.
The results of the study were published in the health journal Cancer.
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