From Evan Lang, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC, and Elizabeth H. Levick, MD, radiation oncologist with OHC

January 15, 2019

Studies have shown that religious and spiritual values are important to Americans, and that many people with cancer rely on spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to help them cope with their disease. Cancer patients, specifically, want their doctor to take an interest in and support their spirituality.

“At OHC, we’ve learned that our patients, regardless of their background, want us to be comfortable talking about religion and spirituality,” said Evan Lang, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC. “Research supports this. That’s why we take time to get to know our patients and develop supportive relationships with them and their families so they feel at ease talking about their thoughts and fears and spirituality.”

A study published by the US National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health reported that most patients don’t want spiritual guidance from their doctors, but they do want their doctor to ask about their source of spiritual support. And they want the doctor to facilitate access to it. They want to be treated holistically and to have a good relationship, so they can discuss their fears.

“The first thing I do when I first meet with my patients is to ask questions about them, not their condition, so I can get to know them and establish a good relationship. Part of the conversation is understanding how religion or spirituality is part of their lives,” said Betsy H. Levick, MD, radiation oncologist at OHC. “For some patients, they may be a member of a church with structure. Others may be focused more on the meaning of life and a sense of peace. Our team wants to make sure we know what is important to them and then how we can support that, whether it be through a discussion or when I can recommend a source for additional support.”

There are situations when patients or family members may have doubts about their beliefs or religious values. Some studies show that patients with cancer may feel that they are being punished by God or may have a loss of faith after being diagnosed.

“We can usually tell when something is bothering one of our patients because they are like family to us. We get to know them just like we do our spouse or mother or brother, and that allows us to ask if something is wrong. Many times, they are experiencing a conflict with their physical condition and their belief system. The most important thing we do is listen. And we offer our thoughts and sometimes advice. And then we hope and pray that we have helped in some way alleviate this distress,” added Dr. Lang.

At OHC, we are the region’s leading experts in the treatment of nearly every form of adult cancer and complex blood disorder. We provide the latest medical, gynecologic and radiation treatments, plus access to clinical trials and a variety support services to strengthen your fight against cancer. Our approach to cancer care is simple – to surround you with everything you need so you can focus on what matters most: beating cancer. For more information about services and careers at OHC, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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