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JEWISH LAW AND CANCER TREATMENT

A number of Jewish laws prohibit actions which are components of modern cancer treatment.  This can be a cause of concern for observant Jews diagnosed with cancer.

PROHIBITION AGAINST TATTOOING

Tattooing is forbidden in the Torah. Tattoos are used to guide radiation therapy following lumpectomy.  Tattoos are also used for nipple reconstruction following mastectomy.  Modern rabbis have found relgious justification to allow tattoos for cancer patients in these situations.

PROHIBITION AGAINST CASTRATION

The Torah prohibits castration.  Surgical removal of the testes is a longstanding treatment for metastatic prostate cancer.  Modern rabbis have found religious justification to allow this procedure for prostate cancer patients.

COMMANDMENT TO AVOID RISKING HUMAN LIFE

The Torah forbids taking actions that might risk human life.  This has been interpreted as a prohibition against cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, because surgery and general anesthesia represent known threats to human life.  Modern rabbis have found religious justification to allow breast reconstruction surgery following mastectomy for breast cancer.