“I Struggle with Breast Cancer and I Struggle with God”: Insights from African American Breast Cancer Survivors

Rahma S. Mkuu, Idethia S. Harvey, Edna Brown, Erica C. Spears, Miryan G. Jira, Kenne’ L. Johnson, Tyra Montour, Janae Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Recognizing that spiritual and religious beliefs are personal and vary within communities, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the influence of these beliefs on experiences with breast cancer care and social support among African American Christian breast cancer survivors. Methods: Forty-seven African American breast cancer survivors participated in focus groups (n = 7) in three northeastern urban cities. We used thematic analyses to identify major themes. Results: Three themes emerged relating to how spirituality influenced participants’ cancer journeys: (1) struggling with God, (2) reclaiming my power, and (3) needing religious social support. Participants described the rhythmic flow of their spiritual beliefs as they navigated their lived experiences during diagnosis, treatment, and post-treatment. Spirituality was intimately intertwined with their illness experience as they grappled with their health and well-being. Conclusions: Participants used spirituality as an avenue to cope and navigate through their diagnosis and treatment. These spiritual relationships created “church families” and provided the survivors’ access to cancer support groups, financial support, and therapeutic support. Our findings support faith-based approaches to health promotion and call for more studies to understand the influence of religion on health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-575
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • African Americans
  • Breast cancer survivors
  • Focus groups
  • Spiritual coping
  • Women’s health


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