Issue 4
Monday, 28 May 2018
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Masters student Alana Gall
Masters student Alana Gall

Traditional medicine ‘still important’

By Patrick Nelson

Many indigenous cancer patients continue to hold traditional medicine in high regard as they seek to cure and cope with their diagnoses, a researcher with Charles Darwin University’s Menzies School of Health Research has found.

Masters graduate Alana Gall said she identified many perceived spiritual, emotional and cultural benefits associated with the use of traditional and complementary medicines in a study of patients from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

“Cancer survivors are increasingly using traditional and complementary medicine alongside conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” Ms Gall said.

Ms Gall said the estimated extent of traditional and complementary medicine usage varied from 19 per cent in Indigenous Australians to 30 per cent among Native Hawaiians and 58 per cent among Maori in New Zealand, although these were believed to be conservative.

“This highlights the issue of communication, and the importance of effective, safe and coordinated care for Indigenous cancer patients. Our review found that patients mostly opened up to their healthcare provider when they felt safe to do so, so putting aside our own backgrounds, experiences and biases when speaking with indigenous cancer patients, will help improve that clinical communicative relationship.”

Ms Gall’s findings are based on a literary review of 21 journal articles from 18 studies across four nations between 2000 and 2017.

“Previous research found that the use of complementary medicine has increased from about 25 per cent in the 1970s to more than 32 per cent in the 1990s and to 49 per cent post-2000.”

Ms Gall said that many health professionals had little understanding of traditional beliefs and values of indigenous cultures, which negatively impacted communication and patient satisfaction.

“It is important that health professionals recognise this and that they’re respectful when engaging in conversations about traditional and complementary medicine use.”

Ms Gall summarised her findings in a co-authored article in the “Integrative Cancer Therapies” journal.

A variation of the article formed part of a presentation for which she won the 2017 CDU Library – SAGE Publishing Scholarship for an Indigenous higher degree research student.

Full article: W: journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1534735418775821