Spirituality in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Modes of Intervention
Table 2. Exploring Spiritual/Religious Concerns in Adults With Cancera continued...
Support groups may provide a setting in which patients may explore spiritual concerns. If spiritual concerns are important to a patient, the health care provider may need to identify whether a locally available group addresses these issues. The published data on the specific effects of support groups on assisting with spiritual concerns is relatively sparse, partly because this aspect of adjustment has not been systematically evaluated. A randomized trial [Level of evidence: I] compared the effects of a mind-body-spirit group to a standard group support program for women with breast cancer. Both groups showed improvement in spiritual well-being, although there were appreciably more differential effects for the mind-body-spirit group in the area of spiritual integration.
A study of 97 lower-income women with breast cancer who were participating in an online support group examined the relationship between a variety of psychosocial outcomes and religious expression (as indicated by the use of religious words such as faith, God, pray, holy, or spirit). Results showed that women who communicated a deeper religiousness in their online writing to others were found to have lower levels of negative emotions, higher levels of perceived health self-efficacy, and higher functional well-being. An exploratory study of a monthly spirituality-based support group program for African American women with breast cancer suggested high levels of satisfaction in a sample that already had high levels of engagement in the religious and spiritual aspects of their lives.[Level of evidence: III]
One author  presents a well-developed model of adjuvant psychological therapy that uses a large group format and addresses both basic coping issues and spiritual concerns and healing, using a combination of group exploration, meditation, prayer, and other spiritually oriented exercises. In a carefully conducted longitudinal qualitative study of 22 patients enrolled in this type of intervention, researchers found that patients who were more psychologically engaged with the issues presented were more likely to survive longer. Other approaches are available but have yet to be systematically evaluated,[18,19] have not explicitly addressed religious and spiritual issues, or have failed to evaluate the effects of the intervention on spiritual well-being.
Other therapies may also support spiritual growth and post-traumatic benefit finding. For example, in a nonrandomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction (n = 60) and a healing arts program (n = 44) in cancer outpatients with a variety of diagnoses, both programs significantly improved facilitation of positive growth in participants, although improvement in spirituality, stress, depression, and anger was significantly larger for the mindfulness-based stress reduction group.[Level of evidence: II]
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- Shaw B, Han JY, Kim E, et al.: Effects of prayer and religious expression within computer support groups on women with breast cancer. Psychooncology 16 (7): 676-87, 2007.
- Antle B, Collins WL: The impact of a spirituality-based support group on self-efficacy and well-being of African American breast cancer survivors: a mixed methods design. Social Work and Christianity 36 (3): 286-300, 2009.
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- Garland SN, Carlson LE, Cook S, et al.: A non-randomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and healing arts programs for facilitating post-traumatic growth and spirituality in cancer outpatients. Support Care Cancer 15 (8): 949-61, 2007.