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Spirituality and Cancer: a Qualitative Study

Abstract : Aims: Patients suffering from cancer are often confronted with an awareness of their own finiteness and with the fact that their life is now ruled by the cancer. This existential upheaval can be accompanied by spiritual “work” which contributes to the adjustment to the disease and to the conditions of the end of life. Spirituality can be defined as a process through which individuals seek for and give meaning to their life, feel connected to the self, to others, at the present moment and in what is sacred. Few studies in France have studied spirituality in the context of cancer. So, the aim of our research was to identify and to study the role of spiritual components in the experience of cancer. Procedure: We carried out 15 semi-directed interviews with patients at the medical oncology and palliative care department at the CHU in Timone (Marseille). A double analysis was performed: 1) a lexicographical analysis and 2) a thematic content analysis of the most typical interviews from the lexicographical analysis. Results: The lexicographical analysis highlighted three lexical classes. Class 1 represented the illness of cancer as a personal transformation (40.5%), Class 2 concerned the biographical disruption experience (13.4%) and Class 3 corresponded to daily life with the illness (46.1%). Moreover, the thematic content analysis revealed different themes testifying to spirituality in the lived experience of cancer, in particular the experience of and the relationship with the sacred, the relationship with transcendence and the role of spirituality in the lived experience of patients who are suffering from cancer. Conclusion: The two analyses of the interviews allowed us to identify the expression of spirituality. Spirituality was expressed as a resource, an “invisible spring,” allowing people to adjust to the extreme experience of the disease of cancer. Both “secular” and “central” dimensions of spirituality: the transcendence and the relationship with the sacred open perspectives for the integration of spirituality into the care of patients suffering from cancer, without threatening the principle of secularism in French hospitals.
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Laura Estienne, Lionel Dany, Eric Dudoit, Florence Duffaud, Sebastien Salas. Spirituality and Cancer: a Qualitative Study. Psycho-Oncologie, Springer, 2019, 13 (3-4), pp.173-182. ⟨10.3166/pson-2019-0105⟩. ⟨hal-02527315⟩

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