Surprising results regarding MASCC members' beliefs about spiritual care

Support Care Cancer. 2013 Nov;21(11):2991-8. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-1863-y. Epub 2013 Jun 18.


Background: Through our survey of Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) members and its analysis, we sought to gain a broader, more inclusive perspective of physicians' understanding of patients' spiritual care needs and improve our approach to providing spiritual care to patients.

Methods: We developed a 16-question survey to assess spiritual care practices. We sent 635 MASCC members four e-mails, each inviting them to complete the survey via an online survey service. Demographic information was collected. The results were tabulated, and summary statistics were used to describe the results.

Results: Two hundred seventy-one MASCC members (42.7 %) from 41 countries completed the survey. Of the respondents, 50.5 % were age ≤50 years, 161 (59.4 %) were women and 123 (45.4 %) had ≥20 years of cancer care experience. The two most common definitions of spiritual care the respondents specified were "offering emotional support as part of addressing psychosocial needs" (49.8 %) and "alleviating spiritual/existential pain/suffering" (42.4 %). Whether respondents considered themselves to be "spiritual" correlated with how they rated the importance of spiritual care (p ≤ 0.001). One hundred six respondents (39.1 %) reported that they believe it is their role to explore the spiritual concerns of their cancer patients, and 33 respondents (12.2 %) reported that they do not feel it is their role. Ninety-one respondents (33.6 %) reported that they seldom provide adequate spiritual care, and 71 respondents (26.2 %) reported that they did not feel they could adequately provide spiritual care.

Conclusions: The majority of MASCC members who completed the survey reported that spiritual care plays an important role in the total care of cancer patients, but few respondents from this supportive care-focused organization actually provide spiritual care. In order to be able to provide a rationale for developing spiritual care guidelines, we need to understand how to emphasize the importance of spiritual care and, at minimum, train MASCC members to triage patients for spiritual crises.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Culture
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Religion
  • Social Support
  • Spirituality*
  • Young Adult