RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL APPROACHES

INTRODUCTION

Religion, i.e. religious affiliation, service attendance, and spirituality, i.e. attachment to a source larger than oneself, sensations of transcendence are essential aspects of ordinary life for many people; a novel poll found that 59% of people globally describe themselves as religious, irrespective of whether they frequently attend religious services. Religion/spirituality (R/S) can be vital for individuals with a cancer diagnosis. The National Health Interview Survey observed that 69% of cancer patients came praying for their health instead of 45% of the general U.S. population. R/S can support cancer patients to find purpose in their illness, render comfort in the face of existential dismay, and gain support from a community of like-minded selves. Much has been composed about the value of addressing spiritual needs as part of patient-centered cancer care. Nonetheless, studies examining the consequences of R/S on health results in cancer patients have reported different results, likely due in part to meager samples and heterogeneous means of religion, spirituality, and physical health. Changing definitions of R/S have also likely committed to heterogeneous measures and, in turn, merged results.

Greater precision is needed to promote research and clinical applications concerning the role of R/S across the cancer continuum, from analysis and active treatment to survivorship to end-of-life. 

R/S is speculated to affect physical health via two main pathways: behavioral self-regulation and emotional self-regulation. Regarding behavioral self-regulation, it has long been remarked that religious affiliation and cooperation are associated with healthful health behaviors, such as restraint of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use as well as more infrequent sexual partners. Religious communities can also implement tangible support, such as transport to medical appointments and provision of meals and other primary care needs. In opposition, religious fatalism is linked with worse compliance with screening and treatment instructions, while some religious sects forbid health behaviors such as immunization and release of blood products. Concerning emotional self-regulation, religious fellowship can improve positive emotion through social care, while R/S rituals and faith can grant hope, forgiveness, comfort, love, and other emotional benefits. An extensive literature has demonstrated the stress-buffering results of R/S on physiological processes such as decreased cardiovascular reactivity, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation, and inflammation, which may increase health outcomes. 

Additionally, because poor health habits can be seen as behavioral attempts at emotional regulation (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, drug use, poor diet), the expressive interests of R/S may favorably influence health behaviors. Consequently, a modern study hypothesized that R/S would be associated with more excellent physical health. Additional analyses explored whether dimensions of R/S were related to specific physical health consequences and whether sociodemographic or clinical variables (e.g., mean age of a sample, gender composition, cancer type) managed relationships between R/S and physical health. Additional exploratory made no a priori hypotheses.

RELIGION: COPING AND HEALING

A person’s belief or spirituality provides a mechanism for coping with illness and relinquishing a deeper sort of inner healing. Managing means different things to different people: it can involve finding answers to the questions that illness raises. It can mean seeking assistance for the fears and pain that illness produces. It can include learning how to find a judgment of direction at a time of illness. Religious teachings can assist a person cope in each of these dimensions.

Religious teachings can also point the way to healing, which can be something very distinct from curing. Modern medicine has recognized that a medical cure is not always feasible, nor is it the only right intention for treatment. Sometimes, when treatment is unimportant, the healing of the soul or spirit can provide a deep and supporting comfort. Religion has long centered upon this as its central purpose. Recovery of the soul or spirit means accepting the values in one’s life and striving to bring these in line with the instructions of one’s religion or the fundamentals of one’s belief.

The Quest for Meaning

The essence of life and death, humanity’s goal or direction, and the struggle with affliction and pain have long been central topics in religious literature.

Within the setting of many traditional belief systems, the last answer to meaning, suffering, and death remains with God alone. One conventional religious answer is that God’s plans are beyond human understanding, but we must believe in God’s goodness and purpose. Many people feel a grand sense of confidence and certainty in the belief that an all-powerful, all-knowing deity dominates the world. The idea that the compensation for a life well-lived is eternal life in heaven is usually connected with this conservative belief.

Liberal creeds offer other explanations about God’s place in human wisdom. Some hold that God has created a faulty world and that it is our task and duty as humans to work toward the world’s repair or completeness. This means that we are obligated to help one another face the conflicts of human existence, including illness and death.

Any humanistic religious beliefs assert that God has no direct impact on contemporary human events. They argue that when we suffer, all that God can do is to be near us. The assistance in this belief system comes from the confidence that God feels our pain and understands what we are going through when we grieve.

Emotional Comfort

In the face of a severe illness, we are often confronted by a range of emotional reactions that can be extraordinary and more intense than anything we have ever met. We feel vulnerable and need calm and solid support—religion steps in with encouragement and reassurance.

One of the great sources of emotional help in times of illness is the Book of Psalms. The Psalmist speaks compassionately and dramatically understands the emotional upheaval of crisis for those familiar with the Western religious canon. The 23rd Psalm (King James Version) reads: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

When we are faced with cancer or other serious illness, our sensory experience is often heightened, both concerning the beauty of life and its more terrifying, ugly, and painful side. Our emotional attachment to the world can become more powerful. Religious tradition places this experience in an aged perspective. We recall the stories of great philosophers and saints who also faced difficulty and death. They instruct and explain the intensity and how our path has been visited before by so many others. Our feelings lead us to a new connection to the world and God’s residence in it.

Religious Guidance

Another predicament confronting cancer patients describes what can be done. They question how to act and how to function at this time. It appears that the ordinary ways of living and functioning are unsuitable or trite. Religion again serves us with models of behavior to demonstrate the values we regard as important. Spiritual disciplines and instructions of various kinds can instruct us in structured activities.

Asceticism—ordering our life and living for others—is an example well comprehended through religious history. Religion teaches us that we can find peace and direction by doing things that promote our spiritual well-being and energy. These can incorporate some of the following practices.

Religious Resources and Practices- Many traditional religious resources and methods help us cope with cancer by giving comfort, support, and direction.
Nondenominational Prayers for Healing- The pastoral care staff has chosen four nondenominational prayers for healing at the UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center.

Spiritual and religious well-being may help improve the quality of life

It is not recognized for sure how spirituality and religion are linked to health. Some researches show that spiritual or religious views and practices create a positive mental approach that may ease how a patient feels better and improve the well-being of family caregivers. Spiritual and religious well-being may help promote health and quality of life in the following ways:

  • Lessening anxiety, depression, anger, and discomfort.
  • Lower the sense of isolation (feeling alone) and the prospect of suicide.
  • Reduce alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Lower blood pressure and the chance of heart disease.
  • Ease the patient adapt to the effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
  • Develop the ability to enjoy life during cancer treatment.
  • Provide a feeling of personal growth as a consequence of living with cancer.
  • Increase positive emotions, including:
    • Hope and optimism.
    • Freedom from regret.
    • Satisfaction with life.
    • A sense of inner peace.

Spiritual and religious well-being may also assist a patient to live longer.

Religious and spiritual approaches have also been known for enhancing chemotherapy, tumor reduction, and benefit patients of prostate cancer, breast cancer, etc.