People’s Preferences for Traditional, Spiritual, Religious, and Folk Healers for Oncological Disorders

Nabila Anwar *

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

Salma Amin Rattani

Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

Salima Shams

Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

Farida Bibi Mughal

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

Sahrish Jalaluddin

Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Introduction: According to the World Health Organization, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths. The Global Cancer Incidence, Mortality, and Prevalence (GLOBOCAN) in 2020, which is an International Association of Cancer Registries (IACR), estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases globally, in 2020, with over 10.0 million cancer deaths.

Aims: Through empirical literature to investigate why cancer patients and their families prefer traditional, spiritual, folk, and religious healer practices over medical treatment, and to explore the various traditional, spiritual, folk, and religious healing practices used to treat oncological disorders.

Methodology: A comprehensive and systematic literature search was conducted to analyze the relevant literature. The databases: PubMed, Google Scholar, and Sage journals were searched. These databases were searched using keywords ‘people preferences’ OR ‘cancer patients' OR 'oncological patients' AND 'traditional healers' OR 'spiritual healers' OR 'religious healer' OR' folk healers. The timeline for the searches was set as 1st January 2011 to 1st January 2022.

Additionally, grey literature that supports and explains terminologies were also added.

From the databases, 5,771 articles were obtained. These were evaluated for relevancy and eligibility, and 110 articles that were considered appropriate, were included in this review.

According to the findings of this literature search, none of the studies looked at all the practices that are used by healers for treating oncological disorders. In these articles when the abstracts were determined to be acceptable and relevant to the topic, the complete text of that article was scanned. Articles that were not relevant to the study topic were not included in the review. Through this process, including the grey literature, a total of 48 full publications were reviewed.

Results: After analyzing the literature on previous studies from diverse national and cultural settings, it was found that Muslim people use different processes like using taweez or Holy water, blowing (reciting holy verses and then blowing it on the body of a sick person), wearing stones, pieces of cloth, spiritual practices, burning candles, touching stones, and other methods to cure the disease. Only a few studies have looked at cancer patients’ reasons for treatment choices. It was also found that traditional, folk, spiritual, and religious therapies are sought by patients for a number of reasons, including cost, travel distance to obtain medical therapy, family and friend recommendation, low socioeconomic status, the lack of availability of health resources, lack of screening system, cultural barriers, untrained medical healthcare providers, and lack of awareness. These practices lead to a delay in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Conclusion: After analyzing the literature on previous studies from diverse national and cultural settings, three main themes were extracted: "healing practices for cancer treatment," "factors that cause cancer diagnosis and treatment to be delayed," and "healers’ perceptions and knowledge about cancer treatment." These practices, factors, and healers’ perceptions lead to a delay in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: People preferences, traditional, religious, spiritual, folk, healing practices, oncological disorders

How to Cite

Anwar, N., Rattani, S. A., Shams, S., Mughal, F. B., & Jalaluddin, S. (2022). People’s Preferences for Traditional, Spiritual, Religious, and Folk Healers for Oncological Disorders. Asian Journal of Research in Nursing and Health, 5(1), 256–274. Retrieved from


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