1. In this randomized controlled trial, religious psychotherapy was associated with significant improvements in disease perception in Iranian breast cancer patients.

2. Furthermore, patients who received religious psychotherapy also showed lasting improvements in inner strength.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Breast cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Iran and negatively impacts quality of life for patients. Prior studies have shown that psycho-oncological and psychotherapeutic interventions are effective in improving the psychosocial aspects of the disease for breast cancer patients. Currently, there is limited research about the effect of group religious-spiritual psychotherapy on breast cancer in Iran. As a result, the objective of the present randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the effect of religious psychotherapy on breast cancer perception and inner strength.

The present trial included 45 hospitalized female breast cancer patients (ages 31-58). Patients were selected through convenience sampling at the chemotherapy and radiotherapy center and cancer specialist clinics in Bandar Abbas from October 2016-July 2017. Patients were excluded if they had comorbidity with other chronic or serious diseases or if they had metastasis of their cancer. Patients were randomized to either treatment (n=15), attention control (n=15), or untreated control (n=15) groups. The treatment group received 10, 90-minute sessions of religious-spiritual psychotherapy based on the Twelver Shia Sects of Islam (RSP-TSS), the attention control group received 10, 90-minute null matter sessions, and the control group received usual care. The Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R) was used to determine the disease perception, while the Inner Strength Questionnaire (ISQ) was used to determine inner strength. All participants completed these instruments immediately after the intervention and at 4 months after the post-test. Statistical analyses were performed using MANOVA. The primary outcomes were patient illness perception and inner strength.

Patients that received RSP-TSS showed significant improvements in both disease perception and inner strength compared with patients in the attention control and untreated control groups. These findings were maintained at the 4-month follow-up, indicating a sustained improvement in these coping measures. However, the use of convenience sampling was a limitation which may affect the generalizability of the study findings. Nonetheless, these results suggest that religious-spiritual interventions may have a role in improving quality of life and coping in breast cancer patients.

Click to read the study in Journal of Religion and Health

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