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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Sep;67(5):780-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

"I know he controls cancer": the meanings of religion among Black Caribbean and White British patients with advanced cancer.

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Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Weston Education Centre, King's College London, London, UK.


There is evidence that religion and spirituality affect psychosocial adjustment to cancer. However, little is known about the perceptions and meanings of religion and spirituality among Black and minority ethnic groups living with cancer in the UK. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 26 Black Caribbean and 19 White British patients living in South London boroughs with advanced cancer to explore how religion and spirituality influenced their self-reported cancer experience. Twenty-five Black Caribbean patients and 13/19 White British patients volunteered views on the place of religion or God in their life. Spirituality was rarely mentioned. Christianity was the only religion referred to. Strength of religious belief appeared to be more pronounced among Black Caribbean patients. Three main themes emerged from patients' accounts: the ways in which patients believed religion and belief in God helped them comprehend cancer; how they felt their faith and the emotional and practical support provided by church communities assisted them to live with the physical and psychological effects of their illness and its progression; and Black Caribbean patients identified the ways in which the experience of cancer promoted religious identity. We identified that patients from both ethnic groups appeared to derive benefit from their religious faith and belief in God. However, the manner in which these were understood and expressed in relation to their cancer was culturally shaped. We recommend that when health and social care professionals perform an assessment interview with patients from different cultural backgrounds to their own, opportunities are made for them to express information about their illness that may include religious and spiritual beliefs since these may alter perceptions of their illness and symptoms and thereby influence treatment decisions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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