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Prayer and Faith: Spiritual Coping among American Indian Women Cancer Survivors

©Thinkstock

©Thinkstock

Although cancer disparities among American Indian women are alarming, research on spiritual coping among this population is virtually nonexistent. This is particularly problematic, given the importance of medical practitioners’ discussing the topic with cancer patients, along with the centrality of spirituality to many American Indian patients.

In a recent issue of the journal Health & Social Work, published by NASW Press, researchers presented their findings in a study designed to explore American Indian women cancer survivors’ spiritual coping with their experiences. Using a community-based participatory research approach, this qualitative descriptive study included a sample of 43 American Indian women cancer survivors (14 surviving breast cancer, 14 surviving cervical cancer, and 15 surviving colon and other types of cancer). Qualitative content analysis revealed that most participants (76%) cited prayer as an important part of their cancer recovery and coping strategies. Many participants expressed how prayer and spirituality connected them to family, to faith communities, and to others. In addition to prayer, over a third of the participants emphasized faith as a recovery and coping strategy.

The results of their study indicate that most women drew great comfort, strength, hope, and relief from their spiritual and faith traditions, indicating that religious and spiritual practices may be an important protective factor against the strain of the cancer experience.

The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.

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