Religion Magazine

Interesting Psak: the Need for Breast Cancer Screening

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Rav Asher Weiss recently issued a psak, that other rabbonim have signed on to, regarding the importance of screening for breast cancer.
Being that the letter has already been translated and explained by Chochmat Nashim (who met with him and asked the question that prompted the psak) and Rav Elli Fischer (who helped arrange the meeting and the subsequent signatures), I am just going to copy the text from them, and include the original letter (in Hebrew) as well:
Interesting Psak: the need for breast cancer screening
The reasons why women don’t get checked for breast cancer vary:
Some are too busy taking care of everyone else
Some don’t know the signs, symptoms, and dangers
Some feel it isn’t modest
Some feel that what they can’t see won’t hurt them
Some are afraid to ruin their children’s shidduchim
We are pleased to bring you this psak by Rav Asher Weiss that addresses all of the above, making it clear that it is absolutely correct to get tested and screened for diseases, including and not only, breast cancer and that it is right and proper to call them by their accurate names, and not by any euphemism. Nearly since its inception, Chochmat Nashim has been at the forefront of breast cancer public education especially in the Haredi community where women develop the disease less, but have a higher rate of death, than their secular counterparts. Ruth Colian of U’Bezechutan has been our partner in these efforts. The signatures on the psak of Rav David Yosef (son of Rav Ovadia Yosef zt"l) and Rav Shimon Baadani of the Shas Council of Sages are due to her efforts to make it known that this cause is truly widely supported. The following translation is by Elli Fischer, who was particularly instrumental in Chochmat Nashim's efforts to bring you this psak and post. Stay tuned for this year's awareness campaign! Asher Zelig Weiss
8 Kagan St.
Here in the holy city of Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt and established
25 Tishrei, [57]79
To my honored and beloved disciple
Outstanding instructor of the law
The eminent Rabbi Akiva Dershwitz, shlit”a
Rabbi of Nahalat Yaakov Congregation
Head of Kollel Zikhron Shabtai
Regarding your request for my opinion on the demands of physicians nowadays to conduct tests for early detection of terrible diseases, which can be cured if detected early—and when, God forbid, the disease is detected at an advanced stage, there is great danger and it is hard to find a cure or remedy—such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and other terrible and cruel diseases: Is it indeed proper to conduct these tests? Or perhaps “The Lord protects the simple” [Psalms 116:6], and one need not demonstrate concern for an undetected disease? It is plain and simply that it is indeed proper to act on the advice of the physicians and to conduct conventional screenings whose purpose is the early detection of terrible diseases. And although it cannot be said that this is a halakhic obligation, since with respect to each individual person, the possibility [of detecting a disease] is remote, and it is not necessary to demonstrate concern about something remote, nevertheless, we are dealing with the saving of lives. Through these tests, we can save thousands of people according to the laws of nature; this is certainly included among the efforts (“hishtadlut”) that are correct and proper to make for one’s physical and mental health. This betrays no lack of faith or trust [in God] whatsoever. Rather, it is right and proper, and it is how one must act. May “Wrack and ruin” nevermore be heard within our courtyards [cf. Isaiah 60:18]; may only goodness and kindness pursue us all the days of our lives [cf. Psalms 23:6].
With fondness,
Asher Weiss

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