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

Jonathan ADAMS, Patricia Valery, D Sibbritt, Christina Bernardes, A Broom, Gail Garvey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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. 

     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).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)359-365
    Number of pages7
    JournalIntegrative Cancer Therapies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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