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Title: Women's experiences of breast cancer and spiritual healing : a unitary appreciative inquiry
Author: Barlow, F. V.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 5398
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2011
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The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the effects and outcomes of Spiritual Healing in the context of women with breast cancer receiving long-term hormonal therapy. Background Spiritual Healing is widely available and used by many but is a neglected area of research. Whilst the exact mechanisms are not understood and healers make no claim to cure, evidence suggested that Spiritual Healing as a holistic complementary therapy could support women whose quality of life is negatively affected by breast cancer and its treatments. After initial surgical, radiological and/or chemical treatments, the majority of women are prescribed hormonal therapy for at least five years, giving rise to immediate and long-term symptoms that compromise their quality of life and force some to take respite from treatment. Spiritual Healing was thought to have the potential to improve quality of life and encourage continued compliance with potentially life-saving orthodox therapy. Method This qualitative study used Unitary Appreciative Inquiry to explore the fullness and richness of patients’ changing life patterns. An observational study of Spiritual Healing took place in a clinical research facility within a district general hospital, and was given by healers with a nationally recognised qualification. Twelve breast cancer patients, who reported at least one onerous treatment side-effect, self-referred to the study and were given ten Spiritual Healing sessions of approximately 40 minutes’ duration each. Data included direct observations noted by healers, patient’s daily logs, researcher’s field diary and one-to-one semi-structured interviews. Findings The effects of breast cancer and its treatments were long-lasting and permeated every aspect of these participants’ lives. The physical effect of cancer and its treatments restricted usual activities, leading to low morale and emotional distress. Patients’ narratives expressed loss and regret and for all patients fear was a constant companion. Observational data illustrated how the experience of Spiritual Healing reduced physical side-effects, including hot flushes, and afforded a sense of serenity and hope. Conclusions This study highlights the potential for Spiritual Healing as a complementary therapy to alleviate many of the distressing effects of breast cancer and its treatments, most notably during long-term hormonal therapy. These findings appear to justify further research to understand the potential value of Spiritual Healing as a complementary therapy to support orthodox medical care.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nursing and Midwifery