CancerPalliative/End of LifeReligion/ Spirituality

Spirituality as a guide to care in advanced cancer

Patients with advanced cancer frequently use CAM.

Researchers at the University of Toronto, in Canada, examined the use of CAM and implications for patient care.

First, the details.

  • 123 patients with advanced cancer on a palliative care unit completed a program of spiritual well-being (well-being and faith), a survey assessing complementary therapy use, and reasons for its use.

And, the results.

  • 85% had used CAM; 42% used it with curative intent.
  • More than 95% would consider using CAM in the future, 48% would use it for potential cure.
  • Previous use of CAM for cure was significantly associated with current interest in using CAM for cure.
  • Spiritual faith was significantly associated with previous and its future use to achieve cure.
  • Poor well-being was significantly associated with interest in future use of CAM for cure.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Interest in considering CAM for cure was relatively high in this group of inpatients on a palliative care unit, and was associated with increased spiritual faith and decreased existential well-being.”

In practice, the researchers believe that the insight gained from this study will help healthcare providers “support and educate patients with advanced cancer.”

Drs. Benjamin and Virginia Sadock in their book, Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Science/Clinical, agree. They advise, “The professional should also work in harmony with the patient’s spiritual guide, if one is available. Sometimes, an experienced, effective chaplain working with the appropriate patient can achieve positive results more directly than any psychotherapy.”

2/1/11 20:54 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.