Two years ago, Kevin Brumett was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 29, and had never smoked in his life. After an initial round of successful treatment, the cancer has since spread to his brain.

Still, Brumett is determined to fight the disease, and says God is on his side every step of the way. He hopes his fight can help others who share his condition.

"It's not right that people get cancer," says Brumett, from Newton, Mass. "God is giving me the strength to fight this as hard and as long as I possibly can."

Cancer fighters such as Brumett, who employ faith in their battle against the deadly disease, are often able to adjust psychologically to a serious illness, according to several studies. But new research suggests they may also be more likely to exacerbate their own suffering in the final days of life and to leave behind caregivers who have a hard time adjusting to bereavement.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that cancer patients who use "positive religious coping," or collaborating with God to overcome illness, are more likely to seek heroic measures in an attempt to prolong life. These religious patients were three times more likely to opt for mechanical ventilation and other intensive procedures in their last week of life.

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston had thought that religious patients would opt for more aggressive care at the end of life, but were nonetheless a bit surprised by the results.

Because religious patients often trust in God's sovereignty and an afterlife, "one might expect them to be more accepting of death and let nature take its course at the end of life, rather than pursuing very aggressive treatments," said Dr. Andrea Phelps, lead author ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.