Open Access Open Badges Research article

Iranian cancer patients’ perception of spirituality: a qualitative content analysis study

Mozhgan Rahnama1, Masoud Fallahi Khoshknab1*, Sadat Seyed Bagher Maddah1 and Fazlollah Ahmadi2

Author affiliations

1 Nursing Department, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, IRAN

2 Nursing Department, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, IRAN

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Citation and License

BMC Nursing 2012, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-11-19

Published: 9 October 2012



Spirituality is a subjective and multi-dimensional concept. The ambiguity in its meaning can create barriers in its application in both education and medicine. The present study aimed to explore the Iranian cancer patients’ perception of spirituality.


A qualitative study, using the content analysis approach, was conducted. Semi-structured interviews were held with 11 cancer patients and six members of their families in one of Tehran’s hospitals and a charity institute. The data generated were transcribed verbatim and content analysis approach was used for data reduction, naming data, obtaining analytical code and determining categories and themes.


Three themes (and seven sub-themes) emerged from the data analysis: 1) God as the spiritual truth (relationship with God and trust in God), 2) Moralities as a spiritual sign (considering personal and social moral codes) and 3) Spiritual resources as the source of hope (religious, personal and social resources).


Overall, in the view of cancer patients, spirituality can be defined in a religious context. However, some of them believe in morality beside religiosity, so health care staff must pay due attention to these aspects, to provide them with the opportunity to use spiritual resources.

Spirituality; Perception; Experience; Cancer patients; Content analysis