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Spirituality in Cancer Care (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 06/15/2012

Meeting the Patient's Spiritual and Religious Needs



To help patients with spiritual needs during cancer care, medical staff will listen to the wishes of the patient.

Spirituality and religion are very personal issues. Patients should expect doctors and caregivers to respect their religious and spiritual beliefs and concerns. Patients with cancer who rely on spirituality to cope with the disease should be able to count on the health care team to give them support. This may include giving patients information about people or groups that can help with spiritual or religious needs. Most hospitals have chaplains, but not all outpatient settings do. Patients who do not want to discuss spirituality during cancer care should also be able to count on the health care team to respect their wishes.

Doctors and caregivers will try to respond to their patients' concerns, but may not take part in patients' religious practices or discuss specific religious beliefs.

The health care team will help with a patient's spiritual needs when setting goals and planning treatment.

The health care team may help with a patient's spiritual needs in the following ways:

  • Suggest goals and options for care that honor the patient's spiritual and/or religious views.

  • Support the patient's use of spiritual coping during the illness.

  • Encourage the patient to speak with his/her religious or spiritual leader.

  • Refer the patient to a hospital chaplain or support group that can help with spiritual issues during illness.

  • Refer the patient to other therapies that have been shown to increase spiritual well-being. These include mindfulness relaxation, such as yoga or meditation, or creative arts programs, such as writing, drawing, or music therapy.