Knowledge and Perceptions of Cancer and Cancer Prevention among Malaysian Traditional Healers: a Qualitative Study


Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the knowledge and perceptions of Malaysian traditionhealers towards cancer and cancer prevention. Methodology: A total of 25 participants agreed to participatein this qualitative study during the period from 20th July 2011 until 24th of September 2011. The proposal ofthis study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Management and Science University (MSU). Once theparticipant agreed to be interviewed, date, time and place of the interviews were determined. Consent formwas obtained from participants before the interview began. Participants were briefed about the study and itspurpose, and after asking their permissions, their replies were recorded. The data was organized into themesand analyzed manually.
Results: Twenty-five Malaysian traditional healers participated in this qualitative study.The age of participants ranged between 26 to 78 years old. The majority were in the age group of 31-60 yearsold, male, Chinese, degree holders with a monthly income ranging from 1,000-5,000 Ringgit Malaysia (RM)and were married (56%, 80%, 48%, 52%, 68%, 84% respectively). The majority defined cancer as having highcholesterol or abscess accumulation. A few of them defined cancer as a type of cell growth. The majority mentionedthat food and unhealthy lifestyles are the primary causes of cancer. Surprisingly some of them mentioned thatcancer is caused by interference by ghosts. Regarding the diagnosis of cancer, the majority mentioned that theyrefer their patients to modern physicians’ medical report when it comes to diagnosing or treating patients withcancer. The most common cancers that many patients came to seek treatment were breast cancers, followed bycolon cancers, liver and lung cancers.
Conclusion: Despite good knowledgeabout the causes of cancer amongtraditional healers, misconceptions still exist. Insufficient knowledge about the definition of cancer was notedamong the traditional healers. This urges immediate action by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia to set up astrict regulation and regular monitoring of the traditional healers nationally. Traditional and ComplementaryMedicine may be integrated into the healthcare system and need to have sustained cooperation for the benefitof patients since about 80% of patients use traditional medicines.