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Fighting Cancer in Druze Community With Prevention and Social Change

A Druze man in his 40s, from the Lebanese Chouf village of Gharifeh, recently passed away due to cancer. Although feeling pain for a considerable time, the man chose not to have any check-ups. It wasn’t until his pain was unbearable that he sought medical attention, but it was too late. The disease was in its latest stages and treatments could not save him. There are many similar cases that we hear about in the Druze community. Lately, the rate of cancer deaths in Lebanon has been on the rise — the Global Cancer Observatory (GCO) reported around 9000 cancer-related deaths in the year 2018. In fact, according to the GCO, the bladder cancer rate in Lebanon was identified as the highest in the world.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It is a disease manifested by the uncontrollable growth and division of cells. These abnormal cells out crowd the normal cells and spread out into the surrounding tissue forming tumors in many cases. Some tumors are benign whereas others can be malignant, and fatal if not detected and treated carefully. Nowadays, modern medicine plays a pivotal role in successfully treating cancer and extending the life of cancer patients.

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of cancer. Some of these factors are controllable and include smoking, heavy alcohol intake, obesity, poor nutrition and stress. Other uncontrollable factors that contribute to the development of cancer are aging and genetic factors, including heredity.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among females. Early detection of cancer can help uncover and treat the disease at its early stages thereby increasing the chance of survival.

However, there are several barriers that can hinder Druze women from undergoing screening tests. According to Annahar newspaper, many Druze and Muslim women mentioned that driving to a hospital for health services depended on the availability of a male chaperone. Some Druze women also believed that it’s “in the hands of God” whether they get cancer, and did not give much importance to preventive measures and early detection.

In a study that included interviews of elderly Lebanese Druze women, health was viewed as being completely in God’s hands. They were inclined to surrender to God’s will without taking any proactive measures. They also expressed their mistrust of modern medicine seeing it as a threat to privacy and the dignity of a woman. Furthermore, due to their belief of the purity and sanctity of the body, the Druze women accused modern medicine of polluting the body with toxic chemicals and foreign technologies.

Women should benefit from scientific advancements and take preventive actions and frequent screening tests. Among the most important cancer screening tests for women are:

  • 3D mammogram test for breast cancer,  once per year for women aged 45 and above.
  • LDCT scan( low-dose computed tomography) for lung cancer, once per year for women above 55 years
  • colonoscopy for colorectal cancer
  • Pap smear for cervical cancer

As for men, the most important cancer screening tests are:

  • digital rectal exam(DRE) and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer for men over 50
  • colonoscopy for colorectal cancer for age 50 and above

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for  good health and to decrease our risk of developing cancer. Below is a list of foods with cancer-fighting properties that can be included in daily meals.

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Curcumin
  • Flax seeds
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Garlic
  • Fish
  • Olive oil

In addition, cancer risk may be reduced by eliminating sugars and refined carbohydrates, found mainly in processed food and processed meat.

We are a people of faith yet it is our duty and responsibility to do what we are capable of protecting our bodies. Early detection and adopting a healthy lifestyle and healthy nutrition may significantly reduce our risk of developing this disease.

*Update 8/9/19: Lack of financial resources can be a burden preventing some Druze women from proactively monitoring their health.


  1. Azar, Grace(2018, October 18). Factors Influencing Breast Cancer Screening in Lebanon. Retrieved from:
  2. Yehya, N. & Dutta, J. (2010). Health, Religion and Meaning  A Culture-Centered Study of Druze Women. Qualitative Health Research. 20(6). 845-858. doi:10.1177/1049732310362400
  3. The Daily Star (2019, June 1). Lebanon among Top Countries for Lung, Bladder Cancer. Retrieved from:
  4. World Health Organization (2019, May). International Agency for Research on Cancer.  Retrieved from:

About Zeina Nasreddine

Zeina Nasreddine has a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Health Management and Policy. She currently resides in Lebanon.

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One comment

  1. Mayassa Bou Darghan

    Great article Zeina!