The role of spirituality among cancer patients: A "bodymind" relationship

Jennifer Summers (2006)

The purpose of this study was to examine how body image changes inherent in cancer and its treatment related to spiritual development, as well as to determine if body dissatisfaction had any relationship to spirituality. Survey participants consisted of 134 adults diagnosed with cancer who had undergone treatment (e.g., surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or alternative modalities) and who utilized cancer support groups on the Internet. Data collected included participants' demographics and health-related characteristics, Body Image Scale scores, (BIS, Hopwood, Fletcher, Lee, & Ghazal, 2001), and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being Extended Version scores (FACIT-Sp-Ex, Brady, Peterman, Fitchett, & Cella, 1999). A series of correlations and analyses of variance were conducted to examine the research hypotheses. Results of the study provided support for three of the four hypotheses. That is, spiritual beliefs and spiritual coping activities helped patients to cope with their cancer. Spirituality was significantly greater for those no longer receiving treatment compared to those currently undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or alternative treatment. Furthermore, significant differences in spirituality were found among religious groups. Changes in body appearance and body functioning were related to body dissatisfaction, which demonstrated an inverse correlation with overall spirituality. In addition, as the number of treatment side effects increased so did levels of body dissatisfaction. Findings are discussed in light of the literature reviewed and clinical implications of the study. An analysis of the limitations of the methodology used point to future directions in psychological research on cancer patients' spiritual coping strategies.