An exploration of healthcare providers' experiences and perspectives of Traditional and complementary medicine usage and disclosure by Indigenous cancer patients

A. Gall, K. Anderson, J. Adams, V. Matthews, G. Garvey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    4 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Traditional and complementary medicines (T&CM) are any form of medicine, practice, treatment, product, technology, knowledge system or ceremony outside of conventional medical practice that aims to prevent and/or treat illness and/or promote well-being. Alongside conventional cancer treatments, T&CM usage is increasing; with 19% of indigenous Australians with cancer reporting using T&CM. There is limited evidence surrounding T&CM use and disclosure by indigenous patients. Our aim was to explore healthcare providers' views about usage, disclosure/non-disclosure of T&CM by Indigenous cancer patients. 

    Methods: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 18 healthcare providers, including three indigenous providers, at a large urban hospital providing care to Indigenous cancer patients were conducted to explore providers' experiences and attitudes towards T&CM use by Indigenous cancer patients. An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to thematically analyse the data. 

    Results: Analysis revealed six themes: concern about risk; no 'real' benefits; perception of T&CM and conventional medicine as antithetical; barriers to disclosure; 'patients' choice' a double-edged sword; and providers' lack of knowledge about T&CM. Healthcare providers perceived discord between T&CM and conventional medicine. Most lacked knowledge of T&CM, and had concerns around negative-interactions with conventional treatments. They considered T&CM outside their role, citing this as reasoning for their lack of knowledge. Indigenous healthcare providers had greater understanding and openness towards T&CM. 

    Conclusions: Given the potential usage of T&CM by Indigenous cancer patients, providers need a more comprehensive understanding of T&CM in order to inform discussion and facilitate effective disclosure on this topic. If indigenous Australians with cancer feel that cancer care providers are unreceptive to discussing T&CM, patient care risks being compromised; particularly given the potential for negative interactions between T&CM and conventional cancer treatments. Fostering health care interactions where indigenous patients feel comfortable to discuss T&CM usage should be a priority for all cancer care services.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number259
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2019


    Cite this