Using religious songs as an integrative and complementary therapy for the management of psychological symptoms among African American cancer survivors

Jill B. Hamilton, Valarie C. Worthy, Melissa J. Kurtz, Joycelyn Cudjoe, Peter A. Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, meditation, cognitive-behavioral techniques, and, to a lesser extent, music are among those integrative and complementary therapies with known beneficial effects on psychological symptoms. However, noticeably absent from this research is the use of religious song as a type of integrative and complementary therapy. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore how religious songs were used to alleviate psychological symptoms associated with a cancer diagnosis among a sample of older African American cancer survivors. Design and Methods: Thirty-one older African American cancer survivors residing in the Southeastern US participated in a qualitative descriptive study involving criterion sampling, open-ended semistructured interviews, and qualitative content analysis. Results: Participants used religious songs in response to feeling depressed, low, or sad; feeling weak and seeking strength to endure treatment; and feeling worried, anxious, or fearful. Religious songs were also a source of support and hope. Types of religious songs included instructive, thanksgiving and praise, memory of forefathers, communication with God, and life after death. Conclusion: Religious songs appear to be an important form of religious expression in this population and used to manage psychological symptoms. Implications for Practice: Integrative and complementary oncology therapy has generally focused on yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and cognitive-behavioral techniques. However, religious songs are an important strategy used among older African American cancer patients. Religious songs can be readily integrated into cancer care. The incorporation of religious songs into spiritually based support groups and other integrative and complementary therapies might enhance health outcomes among this medically underserved cancer population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-494
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Cancer
  • Complementary oncology therapy
  • Integrative oncology
  • Older African Americans
  • Religious song
  • Spirituality
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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