An increasing body of research shows that spirituality and religion can play a vital role in helping people cope with cancer - both mentally and physically. Prayer, for instance, can reduce stress and anxiety. Prayer promotes a more positive outlook, and strengthens a patient's sense of optimism and hope.
Studies conducted at institutions such as Harvard and Duke Universities have indicated that patients who have a strong spiritual sense and pray regularly can diminish the side effects of some treatment and disease.
Since churches teach and encourage prayer, a relationship with God and a growing faith, they can play a role in improving people's healthcare.
Not only can pastors and your lay ministers make a difference in the well-being of current cancer patients, but they can also help fill the gap created by an increasingly overburdened healthcare system.
In his book, Faith in the Future: Healthcare, Aging and the Role of Religion, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, M.D., one of the nation's premier medical researchers on the role of spirituality and health, states that between 2000 and 2011, Medicare costs are predicted to double from $224 billion to some $450.1 billion. And that's before an estimated 80 million Baby Boomers turn 65, sometime after 2011. He says the government is not willing to even predict costs beyond that date. The population will have outstripped the system.
Those who are unable to pay increasingly higher insurance premiums will find many of today's healthcare facilities no longer available to them. Dr. Koenig sees the church, with its lay ministers and historical work in healthcare, as the answer to this healthcare disaster in the making.
With the Our Journey of Hope® lay ministry program, it's easy to educate a congregation about keeping their bodies balanced with nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, so cancer cells never have the opportunity to grow in the first place. They learn to spot early warning signs and the importance of early detection. These simple steps are crucial in our society's ongoing fight against cancer. Look at what experts are saying:
"People who went to church regularly had significantly lower blood levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which rises with unrelieved chronic stress. High levels of IL-6 reflect a weakened immune system, which, in turn, increases the risk of infection, autoimmune disease and certain cancers." - The Healing Power of Faith, Harold G. Koenig, M.D.
"Patients with a strong religious commitment recover faster, live longer or cope better in 7 out of 8 studies of cancer, 4 out of 5 studies of high blood pressure, 4 out of 6 studies of heart disease and 5 out of 7 studies of general health," - Dale Matthews, MD, and David Larson, MD, of the National Institute of Healthcare Research
"Up to 77% of patients would like spiritual issues considered as part of their medical care, yet only 10 to 20 percent of physicians discuss these issues with their patients." - G. Anandarajah, MD and E. Hight, MD, MPH, Spirituality and Medical Practice: Using the HOPE Questions as a Practical Tool for Spiritual Assessment, Brown University School of Medicine
"As a physician, I have seen spiritual strength transcend what would otherwise result in rapid deterioration." - Dr. Joel Granick, CTCA Medical Oncologist, Director of Palliative Care