Turning to faith in God or a higher spiritual power is a common way of coping with life-threatening disease such as cancer. Little, however, is known about religious faith among cancer patients in secular societies. The present study aimed at exploring the prevalence of religious faith among Danish breast cancer patients and at identifying whether socio-demographic, pre-cancer health status, clinical, and health behavior characteristics, including their use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), were associated with their degree of faith. Information on faith in God or a higher spiritual power and use of CAM was provided by a nationwide sample of 3,128 recurrence-free Danish women who had received surgery for early-stage breast cancer 15-16 months earlier. Socio-demographic, clinical, and health status variables were obtained from national longitudinal registries, and health behaviors had been assessed at 3-4 months post-surgery. Of the women, 47.3% reported a high degree of faith (unambiguous believers), 35.9% some degree of faith (ambiguous believers), while the remaining 16.8% were non-believers. Unambiguous believers were more likely than ambiguous believers to experience their faith as having a positive impact on their disease and their disease-related quality-of-life. When compared to non-believers, unambiguous believers were also older, had poorer physical function, and were more frequent users of CAM, and more inclined to believe that their use of CAM would have a beneficial influence on their cancer. Disease- and treatment-related variables were unrelated to faith. While overall religious faith appears equally prevalent among Danish and US breast cancer patients, the majority of Danish breast cancer patients experienced ambiguous faith, whereas the majority of US patients have been found to express unambiguous faith. Our results suggest that future studies may benefit from exploring the role of faith for health behaviors, adherence to conventional treatment, and impact upon quality of life.
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