, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 573-579
Date: 02 May 2012

Traditional Herbalists and Cancer Management in Kumasi, Ghana

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Abstract

Cancer incidence rates are increasing in sub-Saharan Africa where traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) are involved in cancer management. Little is known about the specific role that TMPs play in cancer management in Ghana; we hypothesize that an understanding of the practices of TMPs with regard to cancer patients would help to enhance literacy about cancer amongst TMPs and would contribute to the diagnosis of cancer at earlier stages, by avoiding the detrimental delays while enlisting their help in certain activities that enhance cancer care. To elucidate the nature of the involvement of TMPs in cancer management, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 42 TMPs who practice in Kumasi, Ghana. The interviews elicited information about their knowledge and practices regarding cancer management and interactions with local hospitals. The results showed that TMPs tended to identify cancers as diseases of visible masses, fungating lesions, ulceration, and bleeding reflecting the advanced stages and types of cancers they usually encounter. TMPs identified certain causes of cancer and believed that they can treat and prevent cancer. These results indicate that TMPs are significant health service delivery resources in Ghana for patients potentially affected with cancer. Our work suggests that dedicated efforts to further integrate TMPs into the overall health care system would be beneficial to patients. Future research should examine the role of cancer education and training programs for TMPs to enhance their knowledge, strengthen their ability to complement allopathic practitioners, and increase early detection and treatment efforts through appropriate and timely referrals.