The Utilisation of Traditional Medicine among Young Malay Breast Cancer Patients

  • Szariannie Sulaiman Department of Sociology and Anthropology, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Malaysia
  • Noor Azlan Mohd Noor Department of Sociology and Anthropology, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Malaysia
Keywords: breast cancer illness, Malay, traditional medicine, utilisation pattern


This is a qualitative study examining the utilisation pattern of traditional medicine among young Malay women breast cancer patients. The study has shown that there is an increasing number of breast cancer patients to opt for traditional medicine in searching for a cure. To address the issue, an ethnographic fieldwork was carried out in Klang Valley and several selected areas of Selangor. Thirteen (13) young Malay breast cancer patients were selected as informants for this study by employing purposive snowballing technique. Guided by semi-structured interview schedule, a series of in-depth interviews, phone and online interviews and participant observation were conducted at various settings to capture informants’ health seeking behaviour. It is evident that traditional medicine is still prevalent as one of the treatment options among breast cancer patients. They strongly believed that relying on a single treatment for chronic illness like breast cancer is insufficient. In relation to this, traditional healers and health practitioners such as bomoh and ustaz were consulted by Malay informants either as an alternative or complementary for a cure. Several treatment methods such as herbal remedies for oral consumption, air penawar (healing water) for drinking and bathing and specific item such as an egg for surgery-like procedure were prescribed to treat the cancer-related symptoms suffered. In most instances, majority of the patients were guided by family and friends’ suggestions towards the utilisation of traditional medicine.

Abstract views: 25 , PDF downloads: 19


Download data is not yet available.


Heggenhougen, H. K. (1980). The utilization of traditional medicine – A Malaysian example. Social Science and Medicine, 148, 39-44.

Iskandarsyah, A., Klerk, C. D., Suardi, D. R., Soemitro, M. P., Sadarjoen, S. S., & Passchier, J. (2013). Psychosocial and cultural reasons for delay in seeking help and non-adherence to treatment in Indonesian women with breast cancer: A qualitative study. Health Psychology, 33(3), 214-221.

Merriam, S., & Muhamad, M. (2011). How modern-day traditional healers diagnose and treat cancer: The case of Malaysia, presented at Adult Education Research Conference (AERC), Toronto, Canada, 9-12th June, 2011. Toronto, Canada: New Prairie Press.

Merriam, S., & Muhamad, M. (2013). Roles traditional healers play in cancer treatment in Malaysia: Implications for health promotion and education. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 14, 3593-3601.

Muhamad, M., Merriam, S., & Suhami, N. (2012). Why breast cancer patients seek traditional healers. International Journal of Breast Cancer, 2012, 1-9.

Osman, M. T. (1972). Patterns of supernatural premises underlying the institution of the bomoh in Malay culture. Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia, 128(2), 219-234.

Salleh, M. R. (1989). The consultation of traditional healers by Malay patients. Medical Journal of Malaysia, 44(1), 3-13.

Suhami, N., Muhamad, M. & Krauss, S. E. (2014). The Islamic healing approach to cancer treatment in Malaysia. Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare, 4(6), 104-110.

Suhami, N., Muhamad, M., and Krauss, S. E. (2016). Why cancer patients seek Islamic healing. Journal of Religion and Health, 55 (5), 1507-1518.

Tobing, N., Sihatong, D., Ismail, R., & Manurung, R. (2020). Famili management in traditional medicine treatment for breast cancer, International Journal of Management, 11(10), 366-378.
How to Cite
Sulaiman, S. and Mohd Noor, N. (2021) “The Utilisation of Traditional Medicine among Young Malay Breast Cancer Patients”, Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 6(10), pp. 358 - 364. doi: