Religion and Spirituality in Coping with Breast Cancer: Perspectives of Chilean Women


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Cheryl Koopman, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5718, USA, or e-mail:


Abstract:  This study examined the roles of religion and spirituality in relation to coping with breast cancer in Chilean women. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to examine how these patients used religion and spirituality to cope with their illness; how their illness changed the roles of religion and spirituality in their lives; and their views regarding whether, and if so how, spiritual faith can help patients recuperate from breast cancer. Twenty-seven women with breast cancer who were patients at a clinic in Santiago, Chile were recruited to participate in one-on-one interviews. The transcribed interviews were analyzed using the “constant comparative method” to seek patterns and organize the content into specific themes. Women viewed religion and spirituality as primary resources for themselves and others to use in coping with breast cancer. Women's use of religion and spirituality was manifested in praying, in their perceived dependence on God to intercede and guide them through their illness, and in obtaining social support from other persons in their faith community. Half (13/26) of the women reported that their cancer prompted an increased emphasis on religion and spirituality in their lives by deepening their faith in God. Almost all (26/27) participants endorsed the belief that spiritual faith can help cancer patients to recuperate. These findings suggest that health care providers working should be aware of the culturally dependent roles that religion and spirituality play in women's coping with breast cancer.