October 2019 – Increasing access to conventional cancer treatment in low-income countries is an important public health initiative to address the global burden of cancer. Our findings indicate that cancer patients in our cohort rely on a pragmatic and experience-based treatment selection process and provide insights to the various factors that influence T&CM use among cancer patients in a low resource setting.
Facilitators and Barriers to Traditional Medicine Use Among Cancer Patients in Malawi
J Hill, R Seguin, T Phanga, A Manda, M Chikasema, S Gopal, JS Smith
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BACKGROUND: Increasing access to conventional cancer treatment (CT) in low-income countries (LICs) is an important public health initiative to address the global burden of cancer. However, LICs have a high prevalence of use of traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM). It is important to consider the factors that influence a patient’s choice to use T&CM, CT, or both for their cancer treatment.
METHODS: We conducted focus groups among adult cancer patients in Lilongwe, Malawi to identify facilitators and barriers of T&CM use. Focus groups were recorded, transcribed, translated, and underwent thematic content analysis.
RESULTS: Cultural norms, T&CM access, T&CM success, and CT failure were all identified as facilitators to T&CM use. CT success and T&CM failure were identified as barriers. Access and norms appear to determine initial treatment selection, while treatment outcomes dictate continued use of T&CM or CT.
CONCLUSIONS: This study identified a pragmatic and experience-based treatment selection process that aligns with the social cognitive theory of behavior and assists in comprehending the factors that influence T&CM use among cancer patients in a low resource setting.