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.