‘Religion affects wellbeing of cancer patients’

cancer----CopyIllNESSES such as cancer can represent a test for the faith and spirituality of religious patients, but a new series of systematic reviews suggests that religion and spirituality could have a positive impact on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of these patients.

The researchers defined religion and spirituality as having emotional, behavioral and cognitive dimensions.

The three meta-analyses are published in Cancer – the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

“To date, this series of meta-analyses represents the most comprehensive summary and synthesis of a rapidly growing area of psychosocial oncology: the role of religion and spirituality for patients and survivors managing the experience of cancer,” says Dr. John Salsman, of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem.

Meanwhile, new figures reveal that cancer patients are three times more likely to survive if the illness is diagnosed early.

The news underlines how crucial it is that doctors and patients pick up on symptoms before tumours spread.

Analysis by Cancer Research United Kingdom (UK) found 80 per cent of patients with one of eight common cancers survive for at least ten years if the disease is detected in its early stages.

But this falls to just 25 per cent for patients diagnosed in the later stages, when tumours have spread to the bones, brain, lungs or other organs.

Only last week, figures revealed that cancer survival rates in Britain lag ten years behind those in other Western countries, mainly due to late diagnosis.

Experts say this is partly down to patients not seeking medical help early, as well as General Practitioners (GPs) missing certain ambiguous symptoms.

According to the authors of one of the three reviews, a recent poll found that around 59 per cent of people around the world describe themselves as religious, regardless of whether they regularly attend religious services or not.

Many cancer patients find solace in religion and spirituality, with one survey reporting that 69 per cent of cancer patients pray for their health, compared with only 45 per cent of the general population in the United States (US).

While great importance is placed on meeting the spiritual needs of patients with cancer, studies examining the effects of religion and spirituality on wellbeing have tended to report mixed results.

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