Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 985–992 | Cite as

The impact of acculturation on the use of traditional Chinese medicine in newly diagnosed Chinese cancer patients

  • Mark Anthony Ferro
  • Anne Leis
  • Richard Doll
  • Lyren Chiu
  • Michael Chung
  • Maria-Cristina Barroetavena
Original Article


Goals of work

This study assessed the impact of acculturation on the prevalence of traditional Chinese medicine and other complementary and alternative medicine (TCM/CAM) use in newly diagnosed Chinese cancer patients. The individual determinants of TCM/CAM use among patients were also investigated.

Materials and methods

A consecutive sample of Chinese cancer patients treated at the British Columbia Cancer Agency was surveyed at admission using a 15-item questionnaire. Items included TCM/CAM use, sociodemographics, as well as medical and cultural factors. Data were analyzed using bivariate methods including Pearson’s X 2 test and Student’s t test. As well, multiple logistic regression was used to obtain the final causal model.

Main results

Of the 230 respondents, 57% completed the survey in Chinese and 94% were immigrants. The average age was 59. Participants had a mean disease duration of approximately 2 months and 79% had already received at least one conventional treatment. Overall, TCM/CAM was used by 47% of respondents. Herbal remedies, vitamins/minerals, and prayer were the most commonly used therapies. Multivariable analysis showed that prior TCM/CAM use (p < 0.001), having received conventional treatment(s) (p = 0.029), and being less acculturated (p = 0.028) were associated with TCM/CAM use.


Prevalence and type of use were found to vary as a function of the degree of acculturation. Health care practitioners would be well advised to discuss TCM/CAM use with their patients, especially those who are less acculturated to Western society, since they are the most likely users of TCM/CAM.


Acculturation Cancer Chinese Complementary and alternative medicine Traditional Chinese medicine 



We acknowledge Drs. Stephen Lam and John Yun for their support of this study. We also thank Ms.Yuan Lai, Ms. Diane Skippen, and Mr. Hansen Chou for coordinating the study and collecting data. We are grateful to the British Columbia Cancer Agency reception staff for their support and Mr. Tong Zhu for helping with the interpretation of data in Chinese. Our special thanks go to Ms. Jennifer Millard who offered very competent administrative support throughout the study. This research was funded by a grant to AL from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Palliative Care in a Cross-Cultural Context New Emerging Team (PET 69768) for equitable and quality cancer care for culturally diverse populations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Anthony Ferro
    • 1
    • 6
  • Anne Leis
    • 1
  • Richard Doll
    • 2
  • Lyren Chiu
    • 4
  • Michael Chung
    • 5
  • Maria-Cristina Barroetavena
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Community Health and EpidemiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Sociobehavioural Research CentreBritish Columbia Cancer AgencyVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Health Care and EpidemiologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.School of NursingUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.AMBER TCM Healing CentreWest VancouverCanada
  6. 6.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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