, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 203-218
Date: 22 Jan 2010

The Impact of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis on Religious/Spiritual Beliefs and Practices in the UK

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Abstract

The use of religious/spiritual resources may increase when dealing with the stress of a cancer diagnosis. However, there has been very little research conducted into changes in religious/spiritual beliefs and practices as a result of a cancer diagnosis outside the USA. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis on patients’ religious/spiritual beliefs and practices in the UK where religious practice is different. The study used two methods. One compared the religious/spiritual beliefs and practices of 202 patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer with those of a control group of healthy women (n = 110). The other examined patients’ perceived change in religious/spiritual beliefs and practices at the time of surgery with those in the year prior to surgery. The aspects of religiousness/spirituality assessed were: levels of religiosity/spirituality, strength of faith, belief in God as well as private and public practices. Patient’s perceived their belief in God, strength of faith and private religious/spiritual practices to have significantly increased shortly after surgery compared with the year prior to surgery. However, there were no significant differences in religious/spiritual beliefs and practices between patients and healthy participants. Change scores demonstrated both a reduction and an increase in religious/spiritual beliefs and practices. Although belief in God, strength of faith and private religious/spiritual practices were perceived by patients to be significantly higher after their cancer diagnosis, no significant differences in religious/spiritual beliefs and practices were found between the cancer group at the time of surgery and the control group. Different methodologies appear to produce different results and may explain contradictions in past US studies. Limitations of this study are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.