Open Access Research article

A qualitative exploration of Malaysian cancer patients' perspectives on cancer and its treatment

Maryam Farooqui12*, Mohamed A Hassali2, Aishah K Shatar3, Asrul A Shafie2, Tan B Seang4 and Muhammad A Farooqui5

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Pharmacy, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

2 Discipline of Social & Administrative Pharmacy, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

3 Advanced Medical and Dental Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

4 Department of Radiotherapy and Oncology, General Hospital Penang, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

5 Department of Medicine, Allianze University College of Medical Sciences (AUCMS), Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:525  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-525

Published: 1 July 2011



Cancer patients' knowledge about cancer and experiences with its treatment play an important role in long-term adherence in their disease management. This study aimed to explore cancer patients' knowledge about cancer, their perceptions of conventional therapies and the factors that contribute to medication adherence in the Malaysian population.


A qualitative research approach was adopted to gain a better understanding of the current perceptions and knowledge held by cancer patients. Twenty patients were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. A saturation point was reached after the 18th interview, and no new information emerged with the subsequent 2 interviews. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed by means of a standard content analysis framework.


The majority of patients related the cause of their cancer to be God's will. Participants perceived conventional therapies as effective due to their scientific methods of preparations. A fear of side effects was main reasons given for delay in seeking treatment; however, perceptions were reported to change after receiving treatment when effective management to reduce the risk of side effects had been experienced.


This study provides basic information about cancer patients' perceptions towards cancer and its treatment. These findings can help in the design of educational programs to enhance awareness and acceptances of cancer screening. Priorities for future research should focus on patients who refused the conventional therapies at any stage.