Complementary and Alternative Therapies For Cancer Patients

Faith Healing

This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health.  Faith healing should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.

What does faith healing involve?  Faith healing is the belief that some people are able to channel divine powers to heal injury and cure disease.  Patients who seek the assistance of a faith healer must believe strongly in the healer’s divine gifts and ability to focus them on the ill.  The most commonly encountered faith healers in the U.S. are revivalist preachers who are viewed on paid television programs or at revival meetings in different cities throughout the country.  These preachers are highly skilled and inspiring orators capable of creating emotionally-charged atmospheres while lifting up prayers for healing of the disabled and ill.  Faith healing also refers to pilgrimages to religious shrines by patients seeking miracle cures.

How is faith healing thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health?  Proponents of faith healing believe that a combination of the patient’s belief in a divine power and the healer’s ability to direct and transmit that power to the patient can heal disease.  Patients who possess strong beliefs that healers can cure disease may promote their own peace of mind and allow themselves to deal more effectively with the pain and anxiety of their illnesses. 

What has been proven about the benefit of faith healing?  Patients have been known to be free from disease after visiting a faith healer or seeing one on T.V., but there is no evidence that faith healers are capable of channeling divine powers to cure disease.  Benefits may result because of the natural progression of the illness, rarely but regularly occurring spontaneous remission or through the placebo effect (see Appendix E). 

What is the potential risk or harm of faith healing?  Patients may feel guilty or unworthy if the faith healer cannot “cure” their illnesses.  Patients should be aware that many of the claims made by faith healers are untrue and are designed to deceive large groups of people.

How much does faith healing cost?  Healers may require a “donation” to their organizations as a fee for their services.  These fees can range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars.

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