Cancer patients turning to religion

Cancer patients faced with terminal illness deal with their treatment in different ways. Researchers observed that many rely on their religious faith to cope.

"This is the first study to report that religious coping is in fact related to intensive medical care at the end of life," said Dr. Andrea C. Phelps, researcher.

"Rather than economic factors like health insurance coverage, what's dictating the use of aggressive care at the end of life are important personal beliefs like religious coping," said researcher Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D.

In interviews provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers say patients who reported a high level of positive religious coping were about three times as likely to receive life-prolonging care like mechanical ventilation during their last week of life, than those who didn't use religion much to cope.

"What's nice about this study is it takes religious coping and it actually predicts subsequent care, which is an objective health outcome," said Prigerson.

Study authors hope that cancer specialists get a better understanding how different people view their end of life treatment. They also hope this study will result in better care.

"I hope that these findings will impact clinical care. I think there is a great need for us to pay more attention as a medical community to what is most important to patients at the end of their life. Clearly religious faith is one of those things," said Dr. Phelps.

Researchers note while the sample of patients in their study were geographically and ethnically diverse, one limitation was the group was predominantly of the Christian faith.



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