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Breast Cancer in Algeria: The Challenges of Being A Muslim Woman

One woman chose to keep her both breasts rather than get one removed. To her, it was better to die from cancer than to be called a mutilated woman, or worse, get divorced.

Breast cancer in Algeria is a low lying but deadly monster and it is threatening to tear apart families.

A woman, who asked to be called Aisha was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Just like with other women with breast cancer in Algeria, her physician advised her to go through a surgical procedure to remove the affected breast.

Her life was no longer in danger but her woes were far from over. Her husband sought to divorce her immediately. Because according to him, she is now a ‘half woman’ who can’t fulfill her womanly duties.

The story of Aisha is not an isolated one. Many other women with breast cancer in Algeria continue to suffer in silence and some have resorted to hiding their predicament out of fear of stigma.

According to WHO, 8000 to 10000 cases of breast cancer in Algeria are diagnosed yearly, about five times more than at the beginning of the century. The increased rate has been attributed to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercising, poor diet and smoking. An improved system of cancer diagnosis has also been cited. That means the rate could have been even higher before but with lesser diagnosis.

More than three thousand women are die yearly from breast cancer in Algeria.breast cancer in Algeria

Being an Islamic country, the femininity of women is highly regarded. They dread anything that would change their physical appearance to become less attractive. Having to lose a breast only makes matters worse as it is such an integral part of their femininity.

So bad is the situation that some women choose to suffer alone in silence rather than disclose the truth to their husbands.

One woman chose to keep her both breasts rather than get one removed. To her, it was better to die from cancer than to be called a mutilated woman, or worse, get divorced.

Another woman chose to cover herself completely. It is the custom of Muslim women to cover their entire bodies, but for her it was not only a custom but a way to hide the effects of chemotherapy, which were taking a toll on her body.

Sasmia Gasmi is an Algerian breast cancer survivor. She founded Nur Doha, a cancer charity in Algeria. She says that some women have sunk into depression after their husbands left them. The men leave them at their most vulnerable point ,when they need support. Some of these men clear the entire accounts, leaving the women with empty pockets. For the women, the hopes of getting another husband are almost zero.

Kamel Chekkat, a theologian in Algeria, says that the acts of these men are against Islam. To him, their religion encourages spouses to stand with each other always. It is therefore not a matter of religion but ignorance. He further adds that with education, the attitude of these men, and the society at large, can be changed.

Breast cancer in Algeria and divorce are not the best combination, some survivors are glad as they are now free from their former abusive marriages.


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Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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