Cancer as Perceived by a Middle-Aged Jewish Urban Population in Israel

Orna Baron-Epel

Anat Klin

ONF 2009, 36(6), E326-E334. DOI: 10.1188/09.E326-E334

Purpose/Objectives: To identify beliefs and attitudes of a Jewish urban population in Israel regarding cancer, in the context of the present medical knowledge among lay populations.

Research Approach: Qualitative analysis of focus groups.

Setting: Israel.

Participants: Men and women aged 50 years and older from the larger Tel-Aviv (Israel) metropolitan area.

Methodologic Approach: Nine focus group discussions were conducted including 41 men and 41 women. A structured discussion guide was developed to ensure that the groups were facilitated consistently. The discussions were transcribed verbatim.

Findings: Medical knowledge expressed in the focus groups was high. Cancer was regarded as many distinct diseases, each one with different chances of early detection and cure. Breast cancer and skin cancer were regarded as diseases from which the chances of recovery were high, compared to colon cancer, which was regarded as fatal. Both traditional fatalistic beliefs and views regarding cancer as a chronic disease were expressed. Genetics was expressed as having a fatalistic role and as prompting early detection. Participants expressed great fear of cancer, particularly fear of treatments and death.

Conclusions: The process of incorporating knowledge and experience into the present belief system of this Jewish, urban, middle-aged population has not eliminated barriers to early detection.

Interpretation: The notion of cancer as a chronic disease should be promoted. Interventions aimed at forming more positive attitudes toward colon cancer are needed to increase adherence to screening recommendations. Healthcare providers and the media should try to decrease fear of cancer treatments in general.

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