Cancer Council Australia

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Cancer and prayer

Cancer Council Australia has received a number of inquiries about prayer and cancer following media coverage of claims that prayers to the late Sister Mary MacKillop, soon to be canonised as a Catholic saint, led to spontaneous remission in two terminal cancer patients.

While Cancer Council Australia respects individual religious views, we advise people diagnosed with cancer to seek conventional medical advice and treatments based on scientific evidence, as these have contributed to a significant improvement in cancer survival over recent decades.

Today, more than 60 per cent of Australians who are told they have a potentially terminal cancer are alive five years later – a marked contrast to the middle of last century, when most cancer patients died soon after diagnosis. Thousands of cancer patients are successfully treated in Australia. This is the result of decades of rigorous research into treatment and early detection of cancer, clinical trials and continuous improvements in clinical practice based on the best available scientific evidence.

We respect that prayer can be beneficial for an individual patient’s spiritual wellbeing, particularly among patients with personal religious beliefs. Spiritual wellbeing can be an important indicator of quality of life. However, Cancer Council Australia strongly advises against relying on spiritual intervention as an alternative to conventional treatment for cancer.

This page was last updated on: Tuesday, August 7, 2012