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Can cancer patients fast in Ramadan?UAE experts explain


Abu Dhabi: Many people, both those in good health and those suffering from certain health problems, routinely fast during Ramadan. But can cancer patients fast? One of the UAE’s leading health experts explains how each case is different and why a specific approach is required.

Click here for Ramadan prayer times for UAE and Gulf countries

Speaking to Gulf News, Prof. Humaid bin Harmal Al Shamsi, Chairman of the UAE Cancer Society, Professor of Oncology at the University of Sharjah and Director of Oncology Services at Barjeel Holding Group UAE/GCC, said there are more than a dozen conditions and controls for fasting cancer patients.

Professor Humaid bin Harmal Al Shamsi

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He stressed that guidelines must be followed to prevent any health complications for patients.

“One of the most frequently asked questions by cancer patients and their families before and during Ramadan is, can cancer patients fast? Of course, there is no single answer for all patients, each patient is a unique case and needs oncologist and healthcare provider for a dedicated medical evaluation,” Al Shamsi said.

He pointed out that the fasting of cancer patients is subject to several controls, which must be known before the start of Ramadan to determine the ability of each cancer patient to fast.

Al Shamsi explained that in general, if fasting causes any difficulty for the patient, it is best not to fast – this is based on Islamic teachings.

patients in treatment

Due to the use of intravenous fluids in preparation for chemotherapy, these patients were unable to fast, which in turn invalidated Islamic fasting. These patients may fast for a few days after the side effects of chemotherapy, which are often accompanied by nausea, wear off. There are special medications in the form of patches that can be applied to the skin for a week, thereby replacing the need for oral pills or tablets, and helping patients fast by controlling nausea through these patches.

For those receiving subcutaneous or intramuscular biological or hormonal treatments, they can fast, as these treatments do not invalidate fasting according to Islamic rules.

What about patients who take medicine? Al Shamsi says if they want to fast, they can change the timing of their medication after iftar [sunset meal to end the day’s fast]but they must make sure to take the capsules or pills before or after a meal, as the absorption of some of these varies depending on the presence of food in the stomach.

Patients who need to take twice daily tablets or capsules can take it when breaking or fasting [pre-dawn meal] Time, considering being in the UAE these days, the shortest possible time between visits is 9 to 10 hours. If it is lower than this, it is best to seek the opinion of a doctor to see if they have the ability to fast.

Adequate fluid intake of 1.5-2 liters between iftar and fast is essential for cancer patients who wish to fast during treatment, the professor said.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can be a short course lasting a few days or an intensive long-term course lasting several weeks. In the short course fasting can be done without any harm, while in the intensive long course fasting can be done for the first few days or 1-2 weeks. But side effects such as dryness, fatigue and lethargy increase over time, which may be exacerbated by fasting. In this case it is better not to fast so as not to cause any harm to the patient.


Fasting is not recommended for cancer surgery, especially major surgery, because patients need intravenous medication as well as food and nutritional support to recover from the surgery and its effects.

what to eat

It is important to point out that Al Shamsi said the best food for everyone, including cancer patients, is a moderate diet rich in protein, vegetables and fish, and reduced in sugar and rich carbohydrates. Al Shamsi said the “widespread rumor” that reducing sugar and protein could eliminate cancer cells was an “incorrect and false belief”.

“A cancer patient needs protein more than other people, but if he wants to cut out sugar as a healthy choice, that’s fine, but we’ve confirmed that it doesn’t affect the cancer cell or that it grows.”

Cancer patients, especially gastrointestinal cancer patients, should especially avoid foods that stimulate the digestive system, such as spicy food.

physical activities

Al Shamsi said most people are less physically active during Ramadan due to fasting and more worship. “However, we always encourage everyone to do 30-60 minutes of light exercise every day to maintain the body’s muscles and physical fitness, which is very important for everyone and cancer patients,” he added.

family support

It is important that the family support the cancer patient and respect his or her choice to fast, if allowed by the treating physician. In many cases, family members object to fasting for cancer patients, which can cause stress for the patient. “We must remember that fasting has positive psychological effects that support and enhance the patient’s state of mind and well-being.”

avoid negativity

Al Shamsi explained: “For a cancer patient, it is important to reduce distractions and external factors that disturb his psychological situation, such as some social relationships or social media, which may carry many rumors about cancer and its treatment. This is not should be a reason for social distancing, but rather to limit unhealthy relationships that may have negatively impacted his mental health, whether during Ramadan or otherwise.”

“In the end, cancer patients and all patients must remember, ‘God does not burden the soul more than it can bear’,” said the professor. [Quranic verse]. In case of any doubt, have the patient break the fast in the manner permitted by Allah Almighty. We wish you a happy Ramadan and we pray to Allah to allow us to enjoy Ramadan in good health. “


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