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The role of spirituality in cancer care and quality of life


blog mccray faith

When individuals and families are faced with a cancer diagnosis, having a strong belief can make all the difference in the world. During difficult times, a spiritual or religious faith can ease tensions, boost attitude and support overall improved health.

Research suggests that individuals and families with religious and spiritual beliefs cope better and enjoy a more positive quality of life before, during and after being diagnosed with cancer. Prayer also leads to optimism, reduces stress and can bolster the immune system.

In the book God Changes Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newburg found that those who pray and meditated have a highly developed parietal lobe, which improves memory and improves well-being. An article published in Critical Care Clinics states that prayer is the second-most common form of pain management, after oral medicine.

Because of these and other findings, many in the medical community want to boost their patients’ health by understanding and encouraging practices of belief. Clinicians should not ignore the profound impact that spiritual beliefs can have on patients and caregivers.

At CTCA, we truly value and encourage the faith community to marshal its strength to fight back against cancer. Because of this view, we introduced Our Journey of Hope® (OJOH), our spiritual outreach program. OJOH offers full-day training sessions for pastors and lay members to equip them with the tools to address and respond to the needs of families and individuals dealing with cancer. We teach caregivers as well.

The OJOH program was borne largely of a suggestion from a patient and her husband, who asked if I would be willing to meet with local clergy to discuss cancer care from a faith perspective.

A large part of my work with OJOH is to encourage the use of faith, whether they are religious or spiritual practices, to promote wellness. I also provide clergy and others a network so they can help patients and their families. 

OJOH has equipped thousands of people with the tools to compassionately discuss the subject of cancer with confidence. With engaged, spiritually-informed clergy, caretakers and family, we can support all patients as they live their lives, overcome obstacles and seek hope during difficult times.

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