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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • religious coping;
  • spirituality;
  • anxiety;
  • depression

Abstract

Background

Religious/spiritual resources may serve multiple functions in adjustment to cancer. However, there is very little evidence of the importance of religious/spiritual variables outside the USA. This paper reports the cross-sectional data of a longitudinal study examining the beneficial and harmful effects of religious/spiritual coping resources on adjustment in the first year after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Method

One hundred and fifty-five patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer were assessed after surgery. Several aspects of religiousness/spirituality in relation to anxiety and depression were examined: religiosity/spirituality, strength of faith, belief in God, private and public practices, spiritual involvement, perceived spiritual support and positive and negative religious coping strategies. Non-religious coping, social support and optimism were also assessed.

Results

‘Feeling punished and abandoned by God’ significantly explained 5% of the variance in increased levels of anxiety but was partially mediated by denial coping. It was also partially mediated by acceptance coping, lowering levels of anxiety. Feeling punished and abandoned by God was a significant independent predictor of depressed mood, explaining 4% of the variance.

Conclusion

Using religious/spiritual resources in the coping process during the early stages of breast cancer may play an important role in the adjustment process in patients with breast cancer. 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. Implications for research and clinical practices are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.