Spiritual expression and immune status in women with metastatic breast cancer: an exploratory study

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Kentucky 40202, USA.
The Breast Journal (Impact Factor: 1.41). 01/2001; 7(5):345-53.
Source: PubMed


This exploratory study examined relationships between spirituality and immune function in 112 women with metastatic breast cancer. Spirituality was assessed by patient reports of frequency of attendance at religious services and importance of religious or spiritual expression. White blood cell counts, absolute numbers of lymphocytes, T-lymphocyte subsets, and natural killer cells were assessed by flow cytometry. Assessments of natural killer cell activity and delayed-type hypersensitivity responses to skin test antigens provided two measures of functional immunity. In analyses controlling for demographic, disease status, and treatment variables, women who rated spiritual expression as more important had greater numbers of circulating white blood cells and total lymphocyte counts. Upon examination of relationships with lymphocyte subsets, both helper and cytotoxic T-cell counts were greater among women reporting greater spirituality.

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    • "In addition to the extrinsic factors that could have benefited health in monasteries, there is evidence from living populations that meditation, prayer, and other types of religious behavior can have positive effects on immune function and other health factors (Woods et al., 1999; Koenig et al., 2001; Sephton et al., 2001; Davidson et al., 2003; Newberg et al., 2003; Robinson et al., 2003; Carlson et al., 2007; Tang et al., 2007; Ferguson et al., 2010). In medieval Europe, lay people who engaged in religious activities could have benefitted from the positive health effects thereof, but monastic inhabitants would have benefited to a greater degree given their more frequent involvement and greater degree of training in such activities. "
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    • "For example, Sephton et al. examined the relationship between religious involvement and immune function in 112 women with metastatic breast cancer [91]. Religious expression was positively related to the total number of circulating T cells (r = 0.24, P = 0.01) and helper T cells (r = 0.23, P = 0.01), and controlling for social network size, disease, and medical treatment variables had little effect on these relationships. "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper (1) reviews the physical and religious barriers to CBT that disabled medically ill-depressed patients face, (2) discusses research on the relationship between religion and depression-induced physiological changes, (3) describes an ongoing randomized clinical trial of religious versus secular CBT in chronically ill patients with mild-to-moderate major depression designed to (a) overcome physical and religious barriers to CBT and (b) compare the efficacy of religious versus secular CBT in relieving depression and improving immune and endocrine functions, and (4) presents preliminary results that illustrate the technical difficulties that have been encountered in implementing this trial. CBT is being delivered remotely via instant messaging, telephone, or Skype, and Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu versions of religious CBT are being developed. The preliminary results described here are particular to the technologies employed in this study and are not results from the CBT clinical trial whose findings will be published in the future after the study ends and data are analyzed. The ultimate goal is to determine if a psychotherapy delivered remotely that integrates patients' religious resources improves depression more quickly than a therapy that ignores them, and whether religious CBT is more effective than conventional CBT in reversing depression-induced physiological changes.
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    • "For instance, Ironson and colleagues (2002) found that greater spirituality associated with longer survival among people with HIV/AIDS was mediated by cortisol (Ironson et al. 2002). Also a higher number of circulating helper and cytotoxic T cells were found in women with metastatic breast cancer who reported greater spirituality (Sephton et al. 2001). Another theme that emerged from our research was the temporality of life and the subsequent heightened awareness of mortality. "
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