Traditional and Complementary Medicine Use Among Indigenous Cancer Patients in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States: A Systematic Review

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2018, 17 (3), pp. 568 - 581
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2018. Background: Cancer ‘patients’ are increasingly using traditional indigenous and complementary medicines (T&CM) alongside conventional medical treatments to both cure and cope with their cancer diagnoses. To date T&CM use among Indigenous cancer patients from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States has not been systematically reviewed. Methods: We systematically searched bibliographic databases to identify original research published between January 2000 and October 2017 regarding T&CM use by Indigenous cancer patients in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Data from records meeting eligibility criteria were extracted and appraised for quality by 2 independent reviewers. Results: Twenty-one journal articles from 18 studies across all 4 countries met our inclusion criteria. T&CM use ranged from 19% to 57.7% (differing across countries). T&CM was mostly used concurrently with conventional cancer treatments to meet their spiritual, emotional, social, and cultural needs; however, bush, traditional, and herbal medicines were used in a minority of cases as an alternative. Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance of T&CM use to Indigenous cancer patients across these 4 countries; we identified multiple perceived spiritual, emotional and cultural benefits to its use. The patient’s perception of their health professional’s attitudes toward T&CM in some cases hindered or encouraged the patient’s disclosure. Additional research is required to further explore the use and disclosure of T&CM among Indigenous cancer patients to help inform and ensure effective, safe, coordinated care for Indigenous cancer patients that relies on shared open decision making and communication across patients, communities, and providers.
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