Faith in Cancer Care

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Belief in providers as agents of God’s will can increase chance of seeking treatment

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If African-American cancer patients believe that God works through their care providers, their trust and willingness to undergo treatment increases, according to Jill Hamilton and colleagues in “African-American Cancer Survivors’ Use of Religious Beliefs to Positively Influence the Utilization of Cancer Care,” published in the Journal of Religion and Health.

African-Americans diagnosed with cancer are more likely to die than whites, with a 33 percent higher death rate for black men than white men and 16 percent higher death rate for black women than white women, according to the American Cancer Society. The disparity can be blamed, in some cases, on an unwillingness to seek care, fatalism, and a lack of faith in healthcare providers.

“Probably, the most profound takeaway message from this report is the way in which a strong faith in God motivated these participants to overcome challenges to accessing cancer care, traveling back and forth to cancer centers, struggling with a lack of finances, and in spite of the expressed views of others that death was imminent,” the study says. “These participants sought out cancer care and completed the treatments prescribed in part to their belief that it was God who determined their fate from cancer.”

A better understanding of how religion can overcome barriers to accessing cancer care can be used to develop interventions tailored to the needs of African-American cancer patients, it suggests.

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