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Spiritual interventions for cancer pain: a systematic review and narrative synthesis
  1. Thomas Hindmarch1,
  2. James Dalrymple1,
  3. Matthew Smith2 and
  4. Stephen Barclay1
  1. 1Health Services and Primary Care Unit, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  2. 2The Library, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, Norwich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Hindmarch, Health Services and Primary Care Unit, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK; tjhindmarch{at}doctors.org.uk

Background

Pain is a common and debilitating cancer-related symptom. In palliative care, physical, psychological, social and spiritual factors are thought to contribute to individual experience of pain. Consequently, spiritual care interventions are advocated in the management of cancer-related pain.

Aim To systematically review the published literature concerning spiritual interventions in the management of cancer-related pain.

Methodology Seven databases (Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane, Scopus and Web of Science) were searched for quantitative studies of pain in patients with cancer receiving spiritual care interventions, with additional reference and citation searches. Research quality and relevance was appraised using Gough’s ‘Weight of Evidence’ framework prior to narrative synthesis.

Results The search identified 12 822 articles, of which 11 were included in the synthesis. Few studies have investigated spiritual interventions in the management of cancer pain: a minority of these demonstrate statistical benefit. Some evidence suggests spiritual care may aid in coping with pain, rather than altering pain intensity. Spiritual interventions are well received by patients with cancer and do not appear to cause harm.

Conclusion Current evidence provides limited support for the use of spiritual care interventions in the management of cancer pain. The paucity and heterogeneity of literature points to a need for high-quality research with judgements of spiritual intervention efficacy made on an individual basis.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020190194.

  • spiritual care
  • cancer
  • pain
  • terminal care

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article (and its online supplemental information files).

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article (and its online supplemental information files).

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Footnotes

  • Contributors TH designed the study, conducted the literature search, analysed the results, drafted the manuscript and is guarantor for the content of the study. JD conducted the literature search and analysed the results. MS helped in the design of the study and conducted the literature search. SB designed the study, drafted the manuscript and supervised the review. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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