Spiritual Healing Improves Well-Being in Cancer Patients

The Journal of Pastoral Care published promising findings on a project that explored spirituality in medical practice and its role in the improvement of patient well-being and quality of life. According to the abstract published by the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), U.S. National Library of Medicine, the project:

Examined the feasibility of providing spiritual coaching with patients in an outpatient Radiation Oncology clinic setting. The purpose of spiritual coaching was to provide patients with opportunities to explore their current spiritual lives, increase their involvement in spiritually enhancing activities, and expand their spiritual opportunities. Quality-of-life measurements focused on feelings of hopefulness and distress were used in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. This study suggests that there is a potential benefit for spiritual coaching in the care of cancer patients, and future studies will be done to further elucidate the relationship of spirituality and quality of life in this population.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) agrees that spiritual healing (also faith healing, spiritual coaching), has many benefits. According to the ACS, spiritual healing may promote peace of mind, reduce stress, relieve pain and anxiety, and strengthen to live. Activities may include praying with family members, friends, and/or a support group. It may also involve “touch” by a spiritual healer or group of healers, and it may even involve taking a pilgrimage to a religious shrine either locally or abroad.

When a person has a strong belief in a healer, prayer, or even a pilgrimage, a “placebo effect” can occur, which makes the person feel better. The placebo effect is an improvement that occurs because of a powerful belief in the treatment. The patient usually credits the improvement to the healer. Taking part in spiritual healing can “evoke the power of suggestion,” which promotes peace of mind. This can help people cope more effectively with their illness.

Further, the Mayo Clinic reports that several hundred studies have been conducted using spirituality and prayer. They have produced mixed results, some promising. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a small body of evidence linking immune function to spiritual well-being. In addition, some studies of people with cancer report a change in the progression of the disease when prayer was used. Combining spirituality with other interventions improved the quality of life in some people with cancer. More research is still needed in this area, according to Mayo.

It is important to note a patient does not have to visit a healer to enjoy the benefits of spiritual healing. Positive, spiritual family members (and friends) can help by communicating with their loved one about feelings related to their faith in all areas from treatment to God. Family members can also pray with their loved one, pray for their loved one, and share this with them.

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