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Spiritual Care Often Benefits Terminally Ill Cancer Patients

Study finds support of spiritual needs increases hospice use and improves quality of life

TUESDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- In terminally ill cancer patients, adequate spiritual support is associated with an increased usage of hospice care and an improved quality of life, according to a study published online Dec. 14 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Tracy Anne Balboni, M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and colleagues interviewed 343 patients, including 168 who were identified as high religious coping, at baseline and observed them for a median of 116 days until death.

The researchers found that substantial or complete support of spiritual needs by the medical team was associated with a greater likelihood of receiving hospice care than non-support (odds ratio, 3.53), especially among high religious coping patients (odds ratio, 4.93). They also found that spiritual support was associated with a lower likelihood of aggressive treatment in high religious coping patients (odds ratio, 0.18), and that all patients who received spiritual support from the medical team and pastoral care visits had higher quality of life scores.

"These findings underscore the need to educate medical caregivers in their appropriate roles in providing patient-centered spiritual care and the importance of integrating pastoral care into multidisciplinary medical teams," the authors write.

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