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Better QOL for Patients with Faith

Posted 6/10/2015

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  One important thing that I have learned in this work is that people who have a strong faith, no matter what it is, have a better QOL with cancer than those who do not. I don't know, and surely would not want to speculate, if that is generally true in life, but I suspect that people who feel "grounded" are generally more content than those who don't. Please note the word that I used as I want to be clear and careful about not making any judgments or value-laden statements.

  Especially when someone is very ill or sad or frightened, it makes perfect sense that things are a bit easier if there is belief and faith. You have all heard the story about the angry man who confronts God, saying something like this: "I usually saw your footprints beside mine, but when I desperately needed you, you weren't there. And God answered: "Oh, my son, it was at those times that I carried you."

  I would guess that everyone who has received a cancer diagnosis has thought about God or death or an afterlife and given some consideration to those central existential questions. I often speak with my patients about this and some people become re-engaged with a church or temple of their childhood. My observation over the years has always been that faith helps with the fear. Even if the belief is nihilistic ( existential nihilism argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value), it is a foundation.

  This study recently presented at the American Psychiatric Association's conference supports this:

New Research: Better Quality of Life for Cancer
Survivors with High Spirituality, Religious Practice

TORONTO – New research presented at the American Psychiatric Association's
168th Annual Meeting shows that spirituality and religious practice are linked to
better quality of life outcomes for cancer survivors.
A survey of 551 cancer survivors found that those with a high level of spirituality
and high religious beliefs and practices had better mental and physical quality of
life than those with low spirituality and religious practice. High spirituality, in
particular, was linked to better mental quality of life. As researcher Anthony
Cannon, M.D., noted: "Cancer patients and survivors often experience
hopelessness, depression, panic and anxiety in the context of an uncertain
future." Greater understanding of the role that spirituality and religion play in
patients' quality of life can improve care and outcomes for those diagnosed with

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