Middle East

Muslims less likely screened for cancer in this American city


Muslims and cancer screening

Little is known about faith groups and how they deal privately with health issues. In a new study US researchers wanted to figure out how Muslim communities deal with cancer screenings. The results show that in some areas the rates are significantly lower than the general population and that Muslim women depend more on their faith when it comes to health issues.

The study looked at screening behaviors of Muslims in the Washington, DC, area, highlighting the influence of cultural and religious beliefs on health practices. The study, conducted in collaboration with key faith leaders from four mosques in the region, underscores the need for culturally and religiously sensitive health initiatives to improve cancer screening rates among Muslims, reports the researchers in the Journal of Cancer Education.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, which includes parts of Virginia and Maryland (DMV), is home to one of the largest and most diverse Muslim communities in the United States. Despite this, cancer screening behaviors within this community remain under-researched.

To address this gap, a comprehensive needs assessment was conducted with 203 participants recruited through community outreach and engagement efforts. This collaborative approach ensured that the questions posed were both religiously and culturally sensitive.

Key findings from the study include an overall lower rate of screening among the Muslim population surveyed than in the DMV:

  • Colorectal Cancer Screenings: 35% of both men and women reported receiving a screening for colorectal cancer with colonoscopy, a much lower rate than overall in the DMV area (DC: 82%; Virginia: 67.6%; and Maryland: 72.5%);
  • Mammogram Screenings: 56% of women surveyed reported receiving a mammogram screening, a much lower rate than overall in the DMV (D.C.: 80%; Virginia: 76.2%; and Maryland: 81.2%);
  • Prostate Cancer Screenings: 45% of men reported receiving a prostate cancer antigen test (a higher rate than overall in DC, but lower than in Virginia and Maryland); and
  • Cervical Cancer Screenings: 83% of women reported receiving screening for cervical cancer (comparable to the overall rate in the DMV).

The study also revealed that many participants relied on their faith to guide their cancer screening decisions. Women were more likely than men to rely on their faith when dealing with health concerns.

“Findings from our study highlight that religious and cultural beliefs may play a role in influencing health behaviors; however, to better understand those roles, we need to continue to engage with the Muslim community in the DMV area in order to create an avenue for providing health education in a religiously and culturally sensitive way,” said Aisha Choudhri, a community health educator at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington.

Participants expressed a strong interest in having health initiatives related to cancer education, screening and survivorship integrated within mosques. This preference suggests that mosques could serve as vital centers for health education and intervention, leveraging the trust and influence of faith leaders to promote better health outcomes.

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