Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Religious coping strategies in patients diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK

Objectives: The use of religious/spiritual coping strategies may be particularly prevalent when dealing with the stress of a cancer diagnosis. There has, however, been very little research conducted on this topic outside the USA. Existing measures of coping largely ignore the complexity of religious/spiritual coping and its potential to be adaptive as well as maladaptive. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of various religious coping strategies in a UK cancer sample. Method: A longitudinal design assessed religious coping strategies in patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer at the time of surgery and at 3 and 12 months post surgery. We recruited 202 patients of which, at 12 months, 160 remained. A non-religious coping measure was included for comparison. Results: The use of religious coping strategies was overall common; up to 73% of patients used positive religious coping to some degree at surgery and up to 53% experienced various religious/spiritual struggles. The use of some religious coping strategies showed differing patterns of change across time while others remained stable. Conclusion: Using religious/spiritual resources in the coping process during the early stages of breast cancer appears common in the UK. Patients may benefit from having their spiritual needs addressed as experiencing some form of religious/spiritual struggle may serve as a barrier to illness adjustment. Health-care professionals should also be aware that some religious coping strategies may be more prevalent at different times during the first year of illness.