Original Research

A practice framework for the cooperative treatment of cancer between traditional health practitioners and radiation oncologists in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa

Pauline B. Nkosi, Maureen N. Sibiya
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 26 | a1427 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1427 | © 2021 Pauline B. Nkosi, Maureen N. Sibiya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 February 2020 | Published: 25 February 2021

About the author(s)

Pauline B. Nkosi, Department of Radiography, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
Maureen N. Sibiya, Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa

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Background: Cooperative practice between traditional health practitioners (THPs) and radiation oncologists (ROs) is crucial for the continuity of care in the treatment of patients with cancer. However, scant information exists on how to co-ordinate cooperation between these health practitioners without interrupting the treatment of the patients.

Aim: The study aimed to explore the practices of THPs and ROs in cancer treatment and ultimately derive a workable practice framework between these health practitioners in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province.

Setting: The study was conducted in selected districts, namely eThekwini, uThukela, Amajuba, uMkhanyakude, iLembe, uMzinyathi and uMgungundlovu, in KZN.

Methods: A qualitative study by using a descriptive phenomenological approach was conducted to collect data from 28 THPs involved in the treatment of cancer and four ROs from public oncology hospitals. Focus groups and one-on-one semi-structured interviews by using open-ended questions were conducted to collect data from THPs and ROs, respectively. Framework analysis was used for data analysis to identify themes.

Results: The study found that in KZN, THPs and ROs are working in parallel and that there are problems when patients seek cancer treatment from both health practitioners. Furthermore, the THPs and ROs work in an environment where there is no relationship, respect and trust, open communication and referral of patients by ROs to THPs. Both teams indicated that patients consult both traditional medicine (TM) and allopathic medicine (AM) by moving between the two health practitioners, resulting in interruptions in treatment. In addition, the study found that cooperation between THPs and ROs is understood as the provision of continuity care, where the parties work independently but share certain information of the patient on treatment, or as already being treated by each of them. The focus was on the type of relationship, enablers and common grounds for cooperation.

Conclusion: The workable cooperative practice framework could be an inclusive health system where the parties work in parallel, with the patient being the main actor in the collaboration.


cooperative practice; cancer treatment; radiation oncologists; traditional health practitioners; framework analysis


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