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

  • Al-Naggar, Redhwan A. (Community Medicine Department, International Medical School, Management and Science University) ;
  • Bobryshev, Yuri V. (Faculty of Medicine, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti of New South Wales) ;
  • Abdulghani, Mahfoudh Al-Musali Mohammed (Pharmacology Department, International Medical School, Management and Science University) ;
  • Rammohan, Subramanian (Pharmacology Department, International Medical School, Management and Science University) ;
  • Al-Jashamy, Karim (Facultyof Medicine/SEGi-UC Petaling Jaya)
  • Published : 2012.08.31


Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the knowledge and perceptions of Malaysian tradition healers towards cancer and cancer prevention. Methodology: A total of 25 participants agreed to participate in this qualitative study during the period from $20^{th}$ July 2011 until $24^{th}$ of September 2011. The proposal of this study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Management and Science University (MSU). Once the participant agreed to be interviewed, date, time and place of the interviews were determined. Consent form was obtained from participants before the interview began. Participants were briefed about the study and its purpose, and after asking their permissions, their replies were recorded. The data was organized into themes and 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 years old, 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 high cholesterol or abscess accumulation. A few of them defined cancer as a type of cell growth. The majority mentioned that food and unhealthy lifestyles are the primary causes of cancer. Surprisingly some of them mentioned that cancer is caused by interference by ghosts. Regarding the diagnosis of cancer, the majority mentioned that they refer their patients to modern physicians' medical report when it comes to diagnosing or treating patients with cancer. The most common cancers that many patients came to seek treatment were breast cancers, followed by colon cancers, liver and lung cancers. Conclusions: Despite good knowledgeabout the causes of cancer among traditional healers, misconceptions still exist. Insufficient knowledge about the definition of cancer was noted among the traditional healers. This urges immediate action by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia to set up a strict regulation and regular monitoring of the traditional healers nationally. Traditional and Complementary Medicine may be integrated into the healthcare system and need to have sustained cooperation for the benefit of patients since about 80% of patients use traditional medicines.


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