by Vishnuprasad on  August 10, 2015 at 4:08 PM Health In Focus
 How can Religion and Spirituality Help Cancer Patients?
A new research on the associations of religion and spirituality with cancer patients' physical mental, social well-being, published in Cancer, a peer reviewed journal of American Cancer Society, gives news insights on the topic.

The research, which analyzed studies including more than 44,000 patients, states that religion and spirituality have significant associations with patients' health.

However, there was wide variability among studies on how different dimensions of religion and spirituality relate to different aspects of health.

Researchers conclude that most cancer patients have religious and spiritual beliefs and obtain comfort from religious and spiritual experiences.

First Analysis

Investigators focused on physical health in the first stage of the study. Individuals with cancer who reported greater overall religiousness and spirituality also reported better physical health, greater ability to perform their everyday chores. They also showed fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment.

"These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater aspects of religion and spirituality, including a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a connection to a source larger than oneself," said lead author Heather Jim, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

The author also noted that individuals who derived better cognitive dimensions of religion and spirituality or who could integrate the disease into their religious or spiritual beliefs also had better physical health.

However, behavioral aspects of religion and spirituality, such as simply attending a place of worship, prayer, or meditation were not related to physical health.

Second Analysis

 In this stage, the researchers examined patients' mental health. 

The researchers discovered that the emotional aspects of religion and spirituality were more strongly associated with positive mental health than behavioral or cognitive aspects of religion and spirituality.

"Spiritual well- being was, unsurprisingly, associated with less anxiety, depression, or distress. Also, greater levels of spiritual distress and a sense of disconnectedness with God or a religious community was associated with greater psychological distress or poorer emotional well-being," said John Salsman, PhD, at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem.

Third Analysis

The third analysis investigated on social health, or patients' capacity to retain social roles and relationships in the face of illness. It showed that religion and spirituality, and its various aspects, had modest but reliable connection with social health.

"When we took a closer look, we found that patients with stronger spiritual well-being, more benign images of God, such as perceptions of a benevolent rather than an angry or distant God, or stronger beliefs, such as convictions that a personal God can be called upon for assistance, reported better social health," said Allen Sherman, PhD, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

Sherman also noted that those who struggled with their faith fared more poorly.

More Study on the Topic Suggested

Many researchers have conducted literature reviews on the impact of religion and spirituality on cancer patients' health, but none have taken such thorough and painstaking efforts to analyze the data in such detail.

 "To date, this series of meta-analyses represents the most comprehensive summary and synthesis of a rapidly growing area of psychosocial oncology: the role of religion and spirituality for patients and survivors managing the experience of cancer," said Dr. Salsman.

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.

"In addition, some patients struggle with the religious or spiritual significance of their cancer, which is normal. How they resolve their struggle may impact their health, but more research is needed to better understand and support these patients," Dr. Jim noted.

What is Psychosocial Oncology?

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and the global burden of cancer is growing. According to the World Health Organization, the annual cancer cases will increase from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million in the next 2 decades. 

Experts opine that treatment for emotional impact of the disease is as important as treatment for physical symptoms. However, the emotional impact of the disease frequently goes unattended.

Here is the significance of the new medical branch, Psychosocial Oncology. But what does this term mean?

The root of 'psycho' means relating to the mind. The 'social' part is about social relationships of individuals. 'Oncology', as all know, the branch of medicine dealing with cancer.

All together, psychosocial oncology represents cancer care based on psychological, spiritual, emotional and social aspects of cancer. This different approach towards cancer treatment addresses a range of very human needs that can improve quality of life.

Are Religion and Spirituality the Same?

Religion and spirituality are different concepts associated with faith, but related to each other. Religion is an institution established by an individual or a group of people for various reasons.

According to great visionaries, spirituality is born in a person and develops in the person. But it may be kick started by a religion or its values. It is your way of relating to the world and it may not be able to find it in a place of worship or by believing in a certain way.

Top 5 Mental Tips for Coping with Cancer

Adopt a Fighting Spirit

Fight against cancer is more about your mind and spirit than it is about your body. If you are mentally down, the disease will easily defeat your body. So, adopt a fighting spirit and actively participant in your treatment and recovery efforts. More importantly, believe that you are more powerful than the disease. 

Stay in the Present

The fear of imminent danger coupled with hopelessness may stop you from moving forward in the fight cancer. Don't worry about the future. Set the best possible target and always try to move forward. Do your best right now.

Embrace the Love and Care of Others

According to psychologists, love is the most powerful drug. Having a strong support network of family members, relatives and friends during the period of treatment is important to pulling yourself through. So, seek support from your family, relatives and friends and never try to stay alone.

Make Positive Changes

Stay out of negative all kinds of negative thoughts and make positive changes in your lifestyle that will improve your outcomes. Quit smoking, find time to exercise and have good nutritious food.

Happiness is a Decision

Happiness isn't a prize. It is a decision. Sometimes things are so bad and you may argue it is impossible to be happy in such a time. But what other choice do you have besides trying not to wallow in despair?

Source: Medindia

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