Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp 2269–2276 | Cite as

Unmet spiritual care needs impact emotional and spiritual well-being in advanced cancer patients

  • Michelle J. PearceEmail author
  • April D. Coan
  • James E. HerndonII
  • Harold G. Koenig
  • Amy P. Abernethy
Original Article



Spiritual care is an important part of healthcare, especially when facing the crisis of advanced cancer. Do oncology inpatients receive spiritual care consistent with their needs? When inconsistent, are there deleterious effects on patient outcomes?


Patients with advanced cancer (N = 150) were surveyed during their inpatient stay at a southeastern medical center using validated instruments documenting spirituality, quality of life, mood, and satisfaction with care. Relationships between the receipt of less spiritual care than desired and patient outcomes were examined.


Almost all patients had spiritual needs (91%) and the majority desired and received spiritual care from their healthcare providers (67%; 68%), religious community (78%; 73%), and hospital chaplain (45%; 36%). However, a significant subset received less spiritual care than desired from their healthcare providers (17%), religious community (11%), and chaplain (40%); in absolute terms, the number who received less care than desired from one or more sources was substantial (42 of 150). Attention to spiritual care would improve satisfaction with care while hospitalized for 35% of patients. Patients who received less spiritual care than desired reported more depressive symptoms [adjusted β (SE) = 1.2 (0.47), p = 0.013] and less meaning and peace [adjusted β (SE) = −2.37 (1.15), p = 0.042].


A substantial minority of patients did not receive the spiritual care they desired while hospitalized. When spiritual needs are not met, patients are at risk of depression and reduced sense of spiritual meaning and peace. Spiritual care should be matched to cancer patients’ needs.


Spiritual needs Advanced cancer patients Spiritual care Quality of life Depression Inpatient 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle J. Pearce
    • 1
    Email author
  • April D. Coan
    • 2
  • James E. HerndonII
    • 2
    • 3
  • Harold G. Koenig
    • 1
    • 5
  • Amy P. Abernethy
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Duke Cancer Institute BiostatisticsDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics and BioinformaticsDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Duke Cancer Care Research ProgramDuke University Medical Center and Duke Cancer InstituteDurhamUSA
  5. 5.King Abdulaziz UniversityJeddahSaudi Arabia

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