Religious belief as a coping strategy: an explorative trial in patients irradiated for head-and-neck cancer

Strahlenther Onkol. 2006 May;182(5):270-6. doi: 10.1007/s00066-006-1533-9.


Purpose: To explore the role of religious belief in coping with disease symptoms and treatment-related side effects in patients with head-and-neck cancer under radiotherapy.

Patients and methods: Prospectively collected data were used with a cohort of head-and-neck cancer patients treated by radiotherapy and epoetin beta or placebo within a double-blind multicenter trial. All patients were divided into believers and nonbelievers. Answers to a quality of life questionnaire at four points in time during radiotherapy were analyzed according to both groups. Clinical parameters and therapy side effects were controlled regularly.

Results: 62.1% of the patients (66/105) sent back a baseline questionnaire discriminating between believers and nonbelievers. For 34.2% (40/105) data of all four measures could be obtained. On average, believers felt better in all categories of side effects at all points of time before, during and directly after therapy.

Conclusion: Religious faith seems to play an important role in coping strategies of radiotherapy patients. More research in this area would be worthwhile.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / psychology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pain / etiology
  • Placebos
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Spirituality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Placebos
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • epoetin beta
  • Erythropoietin