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Supportive Cancer Care Center

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Spirituality and Cancer  |  Pastoral Care  |  Resources

Spirituality and Cancer

Spirituality is generally described as an awareness of something greater than the individual self. It is often expressed through religion and/or prayer, although there are many other paths of spiritual pursuit and expression.

The terms spirituality and religion are often used in place of each other, but for many people they have different meanings. Religion may be defined as a specific set of beliefs and practices, usually associated with an organized group. Spirituality may be defined as “an individual's sense of peace, purpose, and connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life.”

Spirituality may be found and expressed through an organized religion or in other ways. Many individuals consider themselves both spiritual and religious. You may consider yourself spiritual, but not religious. Or you may consider yourself religious, but not spiritual. Either way, cancer can impact your spiritual and/or religious foundation.

A serious illness like cancer may challenge a person's spiritual beliefs or religious values, resulting in spiritual distress. Spiritual distress can affect your ability to cope with cancer and your response to treatment. If this happens, you may what to meet with a spiritual advisor.
Some cancer patients may feel that cancer is a punishment by God or may suffer a loss of faith after being diagnosed. Other patients may experience mild spiritual distress when coping with cancer. For example, when prayer is used as a coping method, some patients may worry about how to pray or may doubt their prayers are being answered.

Many people believe the spiritual dimension is important when a person is coping with serious illness. The ability to find meaning in life can be helpful when dealing with cancer, even though it cannot cure the disease. Spirituality can also help a person with advanced cancer learn to accept the possibility of death.
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