Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 4151–4159 | Cite as

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information and support needs of Chinese-speaking cancer patients

  • Lynda G. Balneaves
  • M. E. Wong
  • A. J. Porcino
  • T. L. O. Truant
  • S. E. Thorne
  • S. T. Wong
Original Article



Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is popular among Chinese-speaking cancer patients (CSCPs), but little research examines CAM use by Canadian CSCPs. The use of CAM is controversial because of potential interactions with conventional cancer treatments. The purpose of this study was to explore CSCPs’ use of CAM, sources of CAM information, and decision support needs, as well as their experience of making CAM decisions.


A sequential, multi-method research design was used: a secondary data analysis of a CAM use survey conducted in a Western Canadian regional cancer agency followed by a qualitative interpretive description approach to inquiry using semi-structured interviews with CSPCs and support persons.


More than 65% of CSCPs reported using CAM. CSCPs favored biologically-based therapies, including traditional Chinese medicine herbs and other natural health products. Many CSCPs were using CAM without adequate culturally appropriate information and decision support. Those who made decisions spontaneously relied on peers for advice whereas deliberate decision makers sought information from multiple sources, including peers and the Internet, selecting therapies congruent with their cultural health perspectives and previous experiences with CAM. CSCPs rarely spoke with oncology healthcare providers (HCPs) about CAM use.


CSCPs reported using CAM at rates significantly higher than for non-CSCPs. Given the predominance of biological-based therapies and the lack of consultation with oncology HCPs, it is imperative that CAM use be assessed and documented to ensure CSCPs’ safety during cancer treatment. Culturally appropriate information and decision support is required to ensure that CSCPs are making safe and informed CAM decisions.


Complementary therapies Chinese-Canadian Cancer Qualitative research Immigrants 



Complementary and alternative medicine


Complementary Medicine Education and Outcomes research program


Chinese-speaking cancer patient


Natural health product


Healthcare provider


Traditional Chinese medicine


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The CAMEO research program was funded by an unrestricted research grant from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation (2007–2014). The authors have no financial relationship with this organization and had full control of all primary data that informed this manuscript. The primary data is available to the editors of the Journal of Supportive Care in Cancer, upon request.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Vancouver Coastal Health RegionVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Touch of Freedom Research ConsultingVancouverCanada
  4. 4.School of Nursing, Faculty of Applied ScienceUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Centre for Health Services and Policy ResearchUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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