Opinion: Why I ask my patients about their faith or religion

As a surgeon specializing in cancer, I often meet people at a time of crisis and fear, when they have just been diagnosed with cancer. For many, their belief system is central to their coping strategy. So I believe it is an appropriate time to talk about faith and religion, though many of my colleagues may disagree.

I met a patient I’ll call Brenda not long ago. A tall, thin woman, she would not look me in the eye, and surprised me by not seeming to be relieved when I told her she had a curable cancer with an excellent prognosis.

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