Traditional Indigenous medicine and complementary medicine use amongst Indigenous cancer patients in Queensland, Australia (#159)
Cancer is the second leading cause of death amongst Indigenous Australians representing 18% of all deaths for this group. A wide range of practices, treatments and approaches to health and illness – including both complementary medicine (CAM) and traditional Indigenous medicine (TM) - are available and used by cancer patients but are not historically associated with the medical profession, or publically funded health services. Little is known about CAM and TM use amongst Indigenous cancer patients.
Aims: To describe TM/CAM use amongst Indigenous cancer patients.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of Indigenous cancer patients (252) receiving or recently completed treatment in one of four Queensland hospitals. Using a structured questionnaire, patients were asked about their socio-demographic characteristics, previous and current cancer treatment, and access to community or allied health services for support with their cancer. Cancer details were obtained through medical chart review.
Results: 18.7% of patients reported utilisation of at least one TM/CAM for their cancer, including use of traditional Indigenous therapy (2.8%), CAM (10.7%), visiting a traditional Indigenous practitioner (2.8%), a CAM practitioner (2.4%), and attending relaxation/meditation classes (4.0%). Having a higher education was positively associated with CAM practitioner consultations (p=0.015). Women with breast cancer were more likely to attend relaxation/meditation classes (p=0.019). Men with genital organ cancer were more likely to use traditional Indigenous therapies (p=0.017) and/or CAM (p=0.002).
Conclusion: A substantial percentage of Indigenous Australians reported the use of TM/CAM with regards to their cancer. There is a need to further examine this topic. Those providing and managing conventional cancer care and services for Indigenous Australians should be cognisant of the need to enquire with their patients regarding use of TM/CAM in efforts to provide safe, effective and culturally-sensitive care and support.