Reliance on medicinal plant therapy among cancer patients in Jamaica


                <p>Patients’ perspective of their treatment regime plays a vital role in its success. Recognizing the high prevalence of medicinal plant usage among Jamaicans at large, we investigated the engagement of such remedies by cancer patients, with the aim of uncovering self-medicating habits, perceptions and details of utilized plants.</p> 

                <p>A structured, interviewer-based questionnaire was administered to 100 patients attending the oncology and urology clinics at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. A method of convenience sampling was employed and the data were analyzed using summary statistics and statistical significance tests.</p> 

                <p>A large proportion (<em>n</em> = 80, 80%) of interviewed patients, engaged medicinal plants in their treatment regimes. Such habits were independent of person’s education, economic status and were higher among the 55–74 age groups (<em>p</em> &lt; 0.05) compared with younger patients. The use of herbs was hinged on the patient’s strong sense of tradition and positive perspective of herbal efficacy (88%), fueled by anecdotal accounts from fellow patients. Majority of such users (74.7%) were under concomitant treatment with a prescription medicine, and worryingly, only 15% of patients made their oncologists aware. <em>Annona muricata</em> L. and <em>Petiveria alliacea</em> L. were the most commonly used plants for treating breast and prostate cancers, respectively.</p> 

                <p>A large proportion of Jamaican cancer patients use medicinal plants in self-medicating practices and their perceptions and habits need to be considered by physicians, in the design of safe and effective care regimes.</p> 
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