Building an Effective Cancer Ministry

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 Experts predict that the number of Americans diagnosed with cancer each year will double by 2050. Today, about 1.3 million people annually receive a cancer diagnosis. By mid-century that number could increase to 2.6 million annually.


Because cancer afflicts so many, and impacts every aspect of a patient's life – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – Our Journey of Hope® (OJOH), the spiritual outreach program of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), invited churches to participate in a unique opportunity: a one-day, free seminar, called Building an Effective Cancer Ministry, on April 24, 2010, at CTCA Tulsa. The event drew 130 people from 22 states representing 80 different churches, ministries and organizations. 


"Spiritual care should be constant and, therefore, extend beyond our hospital doors," said Lyn Thompson, spiritual outreach coordinator at CTCA Tulsa. "We hope this seminar empowered and equipped people nationwide to join with CTCA to support cancer patients and their families who live and work in their own communities."


The seminar featured nationally known speakers, including Dave Dravecky, a former all-star major league pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. After he was diagnosed with cancer, resulting in the amputation of his left arm, Dravecky and his wife, Jan, founded Endurance.


Dr. Harold G. Koenig, author of The Healing Connection and co-director for Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, also spoke. Other speakers included Ken Curtis, an ordained minister, cancer fighter and award-winning video producer of a film series for cancer patients and their families based on familiar Biblical texts; Dr. John C. Thomas, a Christian counselor and co-author of the book What's Good About Feeling Bad; and Phyllis Jessey, a caregiver for a spouse with cancer and co-founder of the All Ribbon Group, a non-profit organization that empowers communities to support individuals with cancer.


According to a 2007 Journal of Clinical Oncology study, cancer patients experience higher quality of life when their spiritual needs are met. However, many patients say their spiritual needs are not supported by their medical providers or their religious communities. This spiritual component of care is an essential part of the CTCA patient care model. Based on research that shows spirituality and religion play a vital role in helping people cope with cancer, the hospital's Pastoral Care department offers spiritual support, such as prayer, counsel, worship services and educational classes, to patients and their caregivers.


"When a person receives a cancer diagnosis, it affects every aspect of their being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. That's why CTCA treats each of these components," said Steve Mackin, CTCA president and CEO in Tulsa.


"Research tells us that when people are cared for body, mind and spirit, they are better equipped, empowered and strengthened to fight life-threatening diseases, including cancer," added Rev. Michael Langham, director of pastoral care at CTCA in Tulsa.


The Healing Connection: The Story of a Physician's Search for the Link Between Faith and Healing by medical researcher and cancer survivor Dr. Harold Koenig summarizes hundreds of studies that document the many health benefits experienced by spiritual individuals over less religious people, including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, significantly better health outcomes after physical illness and a lower likelihood for depression during and after hospitalization.


Spiritual support also is important for family members and caregivers of cancer patients, added Rev. Langham. Research shows patients appear to do best when their caregiver's needs are met, allowing them to maintain a reasonably high quality of life.


Our Journey of Hope® (OJOH) allows CTCA to take the insight gained from caring for the spiritual needs of cancer patients and their families over the past 20 years and share it with churches and congregations throughout the country. "We hope by doing this we can equip the religious community to be even more effective in the spiritual care they provide to cancer patients and their families," Thompson added.


Visit to learn more about spiritual support resources for cancer patients and their families. Visit to learn how you can join with CTCA to provide important spiritual support for cancer patients and caregivers in your community.

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