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Spiritual Needs Rank High as Death From Cancer Nears
Date:12/18/2009

Being 'at peace with God' affects medical choices, study finds

FRIDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Addressing the spiritual needs of someone with advanced cancer could be just as important as taking care of their medical needs, a new study suggests.

When asked what was important to them at the end of their lives, people dying of cancer ranked two factors highest: pain control and being at peace with God, the study found.

"Medicine tends to focus on the more scientific aspects of the person, and we've made wonderful strides in improving patient care, but there's another important component of patient health: spirituality," explained Dr. Tracy Anne Balboni, a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the study's lead author. "This is clearly an area where some important advancements can be made."

The researchers discovered that people with advanced cancer were far more likely to choose hospice care when their spiritual needs had been addressed. And among those who were very religious, meeting spiritual needs increased the odds that a terminal patient would choose to forgo aggressive, yet often unsuccessful, medical treatments, the study found.

However, at least six of 10 people with advanced cancer reported that their spiritual needs were only minimally or not at all supported.

Results of the study were published online Dec. 14 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Earlier research had found that the most religious patients are much more likely to choose aggressive treatments during their last week of life in an attempt to prolong their life -- even if those treatments don't improve their quality of life. Aggressive treatments include mechanical ventilation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"A religious person might think they need to do aggressive care," said Balboni, adding that they may feel it's wrong to give up. "But, if the medica
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