By Jim Miller
Spirituality and religion play a prominent role in African American life and frequently influence health practices and beliefs. Now, research indicates that spiritual well-being may also aid in coping with breast cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among African American women.
In a pilot study of African American women who were in treatment for breast cancer, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing faculty members Phyllis D. Morgan, PhD, APRN, BC (now on faculty at Fayetteville State University); Fannie Gaston-Johansson, PhD, FAAN; and Victoria Mock, DNSc, FAAN found that most of the women described their spiritual well-being as having a significant role in coping with illness. According to Mock, many reported a strengthening of their faith and spiritual beliefs during the treatment experience, “showing a significant, positive relationship between their spiritual well-being and quality of life.”
Mock noted that the pilot highlights the need for culturally competent nurses to recognize the coping strategies being utilized by women from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds when undergoing cancer treatment. The health care providers can then work with their patients to incorporate spiritual well-being and religious coping strategies as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Gaston-Johansson adds, “While breast cancer affects a somewhat lower number of African American women than caucasians, the mortality rate is 32 percent higher. Past research shows some may choose to delay or refuse treatment because of concerns that treatment will negatively impact their quality of life. Studies such as this pilot can establish valuable, culturally-sensitive treatment approaches aimed at reducing that mortality rate while maintaining functional well-being.”