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Spirituality in Cancer Care (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 06/15/2012

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Spiritual Assessment



A spiritual assessment may help the doctor understand how religious or spiritual beliefs will affect the way a patient copes with cancer.

A spiritual assessment is a method or tool used by doctors to understand the role that religious and spiritual beliefs have in the patient's life. This may help the doctor understand how these beliefs affect the way the patient responds to the cancer diagnosis and decisions about cancer treatment. Some doctors or caregivers may wait for the patient to bring up spiritual concerns. Others may use an interview or a questionnaire.

A spiritual assessment explores religious beliefs and spiritual practices.

A spiritual assessment may include questions about the following:

  • Religious denomination, if any.
  • Beliefs or philosophy of life.
  • Important spiritual practices or rituals.
  • Using spirituality or religion as a source of strength.
  • Being part of a community of support.
  • Using prayer or meditation.
  • Loss of faith.
  • Conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and cancer treatments.
  • Ways that health care providers and caregivers may help with the patient's spiritual needs.
  • Concerns about death and afterlife.
  • Planning for the end of life. (See the PDQ summary on Last Days of Life for information on end-of-life planning).

The health care team may not ask about every issue the patient feels is important. Patients should bring up other spiritual or religious issues that they think may affect their cancer care.