Use of Traditional Indigenous Medicine and Complementary Medicine among Indigenous Cancer Patients in Queensland, Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2015, 14 (4), pp. 359 - 365
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2015. Background. The cancer toll on Indigenous Australians is alarming with overall cancer incidence and mortality rates higher and the 5-year survival rate lower for Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians. Meanwhile, a range of approaches to health and illness - including both complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and traditional Indigenous medicine (TM) - are used by cancer patients. Little work has focused on Indigenous cancer patients with regard to CAM/TM use. This article reports findings from the first examination of the prevalence and profile of TM/CAM use and users among Indigenous Australians with cancer. Methods. A structured questionnaire was administered via face-to-face interviews to 248 Indigenous Australian cancer patients diagnosed with a range of cancer types. All received treatment and were recruited from 1 of 4 large hospitals located in Queensland, Australia. Results. A substantial percentage (18.7%) of Indigenous cancer patients use at least one TM/CAM for support with their care, including traditional Indigenous therapy use (2.8%), visiting a traditional Indigenous practitioner (2.8%), CAM use (10.7%), visiting a CAM practitioner (2.4%), and attending relaxation/meditation classes (4.0%). Having a higher level of educational attainment was positively associated with CAM practitioner consultations (P =.015). Women with breast cancer were more likely to attend relaxation/meditation classes (P =.019). Men with genital organ cancer were more likely to use traditional Indigenous therapies (P =.017) and/or CAM (P =.002). Conclusion. A substantial percentage of Indigenous Australians reported using TM/CAM for their cancer care, and there is a need to expand examination of this area of health care using large-scale studies focusing on in-depth specific cancer(s).
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