Moving inwards, moving outwards, moving upwards: the role of spirituality during the early stages of breast cancer

John Swinton, Valerie Bain, Sheila Ingram, Steven Darryll Heys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


The paper reflects on a study which explored the role of spirituality in the lives of women during the first year after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The study utilised a qualitative method (hermeneutic phenomenology) designed to provide rich and thick understanding of women's experiences of breast cancer and to explore possible ways in which spirituality may, or may not, be beneficial in enabling coping and enhancing quality of life. The paper draws on the thinking of David Hay and Viktor Frankl to develop a model of spirituality that includes, but is not defined by, religion and that has the possibility to facilitate effective empirical enquiry. It outlines a threefold movement – inwards, outwards and upwards – that emerged from in-depth interviews with women who have breast cancer. This framework captures something of the spiritual movement that women went through on their cancer journeys and offers some pointers and possibilities for better and more person-centred caring approaches that include recognition of the spiritual dimension of women's experiences for the management of those with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-652
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number5
Early online date19 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011



  • spirituality
  • breast cancer
  • quality of life
  • well-being
  • coping
  • qualitative research

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