Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Spiritual Support for Cancer Patients

Jul 29, 2013 03:32PM

Rev. Dr. Michael Barry (r) and patient

While physical needs and treatment options are the immediate focus for newly diagnosed cancer patients, their spiritual needs may be overlooked. Providing a spiritual lifeline to these individuals, their families and caregivers throughout the cancer journey—from diagnosis through treatment—can improve outcomes in the fight against a disease that is expected to strike 1,660,290 Americans this year.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), in Philadelphia, offers an integrated approach that focuses on treating the whole person, not just their cancer. A team includes the patient’s oncologist, dietitian, naturopathic doctor and nurse care manager plus spiritual support from the hospital’s Pastoral Care department. After serving as a pastor for 18 years in churches around the country, Rev. Dr. Michael Barry sensed a call to engage in “mercy ministry”. He has been director of Pastoral Care at CTCA in Philadelphia for nearly eight years, providing a dedicated resource to cancer patients, helping them find peace, rest, renewal and healing.

“The greater the hope, the greater the likelihood that patients will find the fortitude to fight cancer,” says Barry. “We believe that it is critical to actively integrate prayer, spiritual support, counseling, meditation and motivation to treat the spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs of cancer patients.”

When focusing on the connection between spirituality and health, spirituality is often defined as how people maintain their relationship with God, including through prayer, worship and charitable acts. By supporting people’s personal beliefs, CTCA incorporates faith as both a practical and often necessary resource for healing.

Many CTCA patients travel many miles to receive care, making the need for support at the hospital that much more important. “We offer spiritual sustenance because patients may have spiritual needs that are not being met while they are away from their home community of faith,” adds Barry. “Encouraging people to maintain their spiritual practices while battling cancer has other health benefits including helping to lower blood pressure and lessen stress.”

Rev. Barry has found that patients and their loved ones are often burdened with feelings of guilt, fear, blame and anger, which create undue stress that may hinder treatment. “When patients can learn to forgive and release stress, there may be both an immediate and long-term strengthening of the immune system and the healing process,” says Barry. “The mission of providing spiritual support is critical in a cancer environment and must not be overlooked.”

CTCA in Philadelphia also provides a program to develop relationships with pastors and lay ministers in other regions, providing tools and education to better support cancer patients and family members within their churches and communities. This provides continuing support throughout a patients’ survivorship, even when they return home.  

For more information about CTCA in Philadelphia and the spiritual support services offered, visit

Upcoming Events Near You
COVID-19 Guidelines From the CDC
Read The Current Digital Issue!
Global Brief Video
Health Brief Video