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How Women With Advanced Cancer Pray: A Report From Two Focus Groups

Amy Rex Smith
Susan DeSanto-Madeya
John E. Pérez
Elizabeth F. Tracey
Susan DeCristofaro
Rebecca L. Norris
Shruti L. Mukkamala
ONF 2012, 39(3), E310-E316 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.E310-E316

Purpose/Objectives: To explore the meaning, function, and focus of prayer for patients with advanced cancer, and to identify the effects of prayer on their coping.

Research Approach: Qualitative, descriptive design using focus groups.

Setting: Three cancer centers that are part of a university-affiliated comprehensive cancer network in the northeastern United States.

Participants: 13 adult, female outpatients receiving active treatment for ovarian or lung cancer.

Methodologic Approach: Two semistructured, focus group interviews were conducted. Audiotapes were transcribed verbatim. Data were coded and analyzed using standard content analysis procedures.

Main Research Variables: Prayer and coping.

Findings: Four themes emerged: finding one's own way, renewed appreciation for life, provision of strength and courage, and gaining a stronger spiritual connection. In addition, praying for others, conversational prayer, petitionary prayer, ritual prayer, and thanksgiving prayer were used most often by participants to cope.

Conclusions: The findings support prayer as a positive coping mechanism for women with advanced ovarian or lung cancer.

Interpretation: The study provides knowledge about prayer as a source of spiritual and psychological support. Oncology nurses should consider the use of prayer for patients coping with advanced cancer.

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