In a recent study of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer, researchers noted apparent increases in these patients connecting with their spirituality after a cancer diagnosis. These study findings were reported in the journal Oncology Nursing Forum.

“This study demonstrated the importance of providing oncology nurses with a supportive healing environment to address AYAs’ spiritual needs,” the researchers wrote in their report.

AYAs aged 15 to 39 years were eligible for inclusion in this study, which was based in Turkey. Eligibility criteria also included having undergone cancer treatment with diagnosis more than 3 months before enrollment.

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The researchers conducted semistructured interviews with participants between October 2021 and January 2022 with an aim of understanding their experiences of spirituality after the cancer diagnosis. Participants were asked a range of questions about their beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and experiences regarding spirituality and their diagnosis and treatment.

The study included 7 female and 7 male participants, with a mean age of 21.6 years (range, 15 to 27). All participants reported having Islamic religious beliefs.

The researchers found that participant responses primarily fell into 3 categories: improvement in spiritual well-being, the contribution of spirituality to coping, and the response to the process after diagnosis. The researchers determined that, overall, these concepts could be unified into a core category of rebuilding and guiding the self with spirituality.

Improving spiritual well-being involved support from family and friends and harmonizing care with spiritual values, in addition to spiritual beliefs and a sense of trust. One aspect expressed in regard to harmonizing care with spiritual values was a need to discuss religion with healthcare professionals, especially at times when feeling unhappy.

Contribution of spirituality to coping involved subcategories of psychological growth, shouldering the responsibility of treatment, and adapting to new and difficult conditions. The patients were generally upset upon receiving their diagnosis and encountered difficulties while undergoing treatment. However, it was understood that treatment needed to be continued.

Response to the process after diagnosis involved developing a more positive worldview, getting closer to spirituality, and an altered meaning of life. All participants reportedly found religious beliefs and spirituality to be a source of hope. Additionally, an awareness of taking care of one’s health was a theme in patient responses, in addition to awareness of the opportunities of life.

The researchers acknowledged in their report that AYAs may differ in terms of whether they follow a religion or in their relationship to the notion of spirituality. For this reason, the researchers suggested that oncology nurses and other healthcare providers consider exploring patients’ hopes, worries, sense of meaning, and changing life perspectives.


Gürsu O, Gürcan M, Turan SA. Rebuilding and guiding the self with spirituality: a grounded theory of experiences of adolescents and young adults with cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2023;50(4):487-497. doi:10.1188/23.ONF.487-497

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor