Existential and Spiritual Issues

Considering existential issues, a heightened awareness of mortality and death is typically evoked in persons diagnosed with cancer. But rather than being a wholly traumatic experience, cancer can signal a life transition offering the possibility of both positive and negative psychosocial outcomes. Many people diagnosed with cancer describe personal growth consequent to their illness experience.29 Those impacted by challenging life events like cancer often perceive associated benefits such as improved relationships, greater appreciation of life, and increased resilience. Such benefit finding has piqued much recent research interest.30-33 Indeed, diagnosis may actually provoke patients to initiate an inner quest for greater clarity and a renewed sense of meaning and a purpose in life. Several researchers have proposed that people often make sense of their diagnosis by construing beneficial consequences of their predicament.34-36 Here we use the term post-traumatic growth (PTG) to refer to the discovery or process of searching for benefits or positive implications of the cancer experience and related life changes.

There has been a recent surge of research investigating PTG in cancer patients. One study found that patients undergoing consideration for bone marrow transplantation met or exceeded a matched control group on measures of positive psychosocial change, even though they rated their physical and functional ability to be declining.34 Also, breast cancer patients had significantly higher scores in PTG than a group of age and education-matched controls, specifically in the areas of relating to others, spirituality, and appreciation of life.37 A third study found that women with breast cancer reported significant improvements, above those of women with benign breast problems, in their outlook on life, love for their spouse or partner, religious satisfaction, and spirituality.38 These results, too, were apparent despite reports of poorer health and physical functioning.

PTG and spirituality appear to be closely related constructs. Although spirituality is challenging to define, it often includes dimensions such as meaning making, faith, purpose, and connection with others and a higher power.39,40 Spirituality differs from religiosity, in that it is not necessarily specific to a particular theological framework; hence it is a more inclusive term.41 A review of the literature on spirituality emphasizes its importance in helping people to adapt and adjust to cancer.42

Furthermore, there seems to be some conceptual overlap between PTG and spirituality. Indeed, spirituality and benefit finding increased in tandem as measured in one study, indicating that these variables may share a significant correlational relationship.43 Patients who scored high in benefit finding had increased skills, felt a sense of purpose, had closer relationships, better coping, increased spirituality, and an overall deeper appreciation of life. While there is some evidence that benefit finding and spiritual well-being increase with the diagnosis of cancer itself,35 it is not known if PTG or spirituality can be facilitated through psychosocial interventions. There are some preliminary indications that this may be possible.44

10 Ways To Fight Off Cancer

10 Ways To Fight Off Cancer

Learning About 10 Ways Fight Off Cancer Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life The Best Tips On How To Keep This Killer At Bay Discovering that you or a loved one has cancer can be utterly terrifying. All the same, once you comprehend the causes of cancer and learn how to reverse those causes, you or your loved one may have more than a fighting chance of beating out cancer.

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