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A Pilot Study of Patients With Cancer and Their Traditional Healers: an Approach to Potentially Reducing Delay in Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Chimo Asuzu

5 Collaborator(s)

Funding source

African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC)
Objective: This descriptive cross-sectional study assessed cancer patients’ use of traditional healers, the association between delay in coming to this clinic and patients’ use of traditional healers, reasons cancer patients use western medicine after trying traditional treatment and the cost of obtaining traditional treatment. Methods: Participants were made of 400 consecutive and consenting new patients in the Department of Radiotherapy, University College Hospital (UCH), and Ibadan. A validated interviewer-administered semi-structured questionnaire was used for data collection. Data was analysed on SPSS version 17. Focus group discussions were held with some of the patients as well as the traditional healers. Results: It showed that 34.5% of the patients patronized traditional healers while 65.5% used only hospitals. The most common reason patients give for visiting traditional healers was their desire to be healed and to be rid of pains (45.9%) while the most common reason they opt for western medicine afterwards was lack of improvement in their health condition (70.1%). The traditional treatment for cancer was ranged between no cost to N5,000 (that is approximately $6.26 to $31.25 @ $1= N160) to get treated. The cost of orthodox care would range from a minimum of N40,000 to several millions of naira. Conclusions: Patients patronize traditional healers to be rid of pains; hence physicians should endeavour to control cancer-related symptoms, especially pains as the patients await diagnosis. Also, the low cost of obtaining traditional treatment, regular assurance of cure and other assistances given to them could be an enticing factor in its use.

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