Use of traditional, complementary and allopathic medicines in Pakistan by cancer patients

Rural Remote Health. Oct-Dec 2005;5(4):447. Epub 2005 Dec 13.


Introduction: The healthcare systems of developing countries are complex in that they often accommodate a range of disparate and often competing paradigms of care. This is the case in Pakistan where Indigenous traditional medicine (TM) co-exists with Western allopathic medicine and, in theory at least, with 'globalised' complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). To date we know little about what treatments are being chosen and why in this still predominantly rural country.

Aim: To gain a preliminary understanding of patterns of usage of traditional medicine and globalised complementary and alternative medicine by cancer patients in Pakistan.

Method: Structured survey of 362 cancer patients, from diverse regions in the Punjab and North-west Frontier Province provinces, who were being treated in four different hospitals in Lahore, Pakistan.

Results: Use of traditional medicine is high amongst cancer patients, with many patients using a combination of different therapeutic modalities. Unlike studies in Western contexts, this study indicated no relationship between cancer type or sex and use of CAM/TM. However level of education was influential in determining usage of particular TM. There is, however, no uniformity in patterns of use of different TM.

Conclusion: There is less differentiation between social groups in usage of CAM and TM in Pakistan than has been reported in studies of western cancer patients. Differing levels of use for specific TM highlight the need to get beyond monolithic categorizations (such as TM) to understand use patterns for specific indigenous practices (in their social and cultural context).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pakistan
  • Socioeconomic Factors