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Insights on Aboriginal peoples' views of cancer in Australia
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Pamela McgrathPamela Mcgrath, Hamish HolewaHamish Holewa, K Ogilvie, R Rayner, Mary PattonMary Patton
Although the incidence of cancer in Indigenous peoples is similar to its incidence in the overall Australian population, Indigenous peoples are less likely to access early detection and medical interventions resulting in higher mortality and morbidity rates. To explore and address this discrepancy, the National Health and Medical Research Council funded a research study to examine Indigenous peoples’ views of cancer and cancer treatments with an end goal of developing an innovative model of Indigenous Palliative Care. Seventy-two participants were interviewed from four geographical areas within the Northern Territory (Australia) including patients, care givers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous health care workers, and interpreters. Indigenous peoples’ views of cancer have to be examined within a historical, socio-political, and cultural context. There is no Indigenous word for cancer and the Western biomedical language that semantically constructs the notion of cancer is not widely understood. Additionally, for many Indigenous people, the aetiology of cancer is embedded in beliefs about the spiritual world of curses and payback from perceived misdeeds. The paper advocates for cross-cultural education initiatives, stressing the importance of a two way education strategy incorporating a process whereby medical and nursing personnel would improve their understanding of Indigenous peoples’ view of cancer and Indigenous peoples would learn more about prevention and treatment of cancer from a biomedical perspective.