Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 212–225

Ethnicity and spirituality in breast cancer survivors

  • Ellen G. Levine
  • Grace Yoo
  • Caryn Aviv
  • Cheryl Ewing
  • Alfred Au

DOI: 10.1007/s11764-007-0024-z

Cite this article as:
Levine, E.G., Yoo, G., Aviv, C. et al. J Cancer Surviv (2007) 1: 212. doi:10.1007/s11764-007-0024-z



Many women are incorporating spirituality as a way of coping with cancer. However, few studies have examined the role of spirituality in mood and quality of life among breast cancer survivors from different ethnic groups.


One hundred and seventy-five women who had completed treatment for breast cancer participated in in-depth interviews about their experiences. Transcripts were available for 161 women.


The majority (83%) of the women talked about their spirituality. The main themes were: (1) God as a Comforting Presence; (2) Questioning Faith; (3) Anger at God; (4) Spiritual Transformation of Self and Attitude Towards Others/Recognition of Own Mortality; (5) Deepening of Faith; (6) Acceptance; and (7) Prayer by Self. A higher percentage of African-Americans, Latinas, and Christians felt comforted by God than the other groups.


These results are consistent with the common assumption that more African-American and Latinas engage in spiritual activities and that African-Americans are more fatalistic than the other groups. Implications for Cancer Survivors: The present findings suggest that there are several dimensions of spirituality experienced among cancer survivors. For many the trauma of a cancer diagnosis might deepen their faith and appreciation of life as well as changing the way they view at themselves, their lives, and how they relate to those around them, including God.


Quality of lifeSpiritualityEthnic differencesBreast cancer survivors

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen G. Levine
    • 1
  • Grace Yoo
    • 2
  • Caryn Aviv
    • 3
  • Cheryl Ewing
    • 4
  • Alfred Au
    • 5
  1. 1.BioBehavioral Research CenterSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Asian-American StudiesSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Center for Judaic StudiesUniversity of DenverDenverUSA
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryUniversity of California San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer CenterSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.University of California San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer CenterSan FranciscoUSA