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Cancer Patients' Experience of Combined Treatment With Conventional and Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Biopsychosocial Phenomenon

Liu, Chun Hao MD; Tang, Woung-Ru PhD, RN; Wang, Hung Ming MD; Lee, Ko Chen MD, MMed

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e31820d4da9

Background: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is used worldwide as a complementary and alternative medicine, but little is known about cancer patients' experience when using combination therapy of TCM and conventional medicine.

Objectives: The goal of this study was to understand the experiences of Taiwanese cancer patients undergoing conventional chemotherapy and using TCM at the same time.

Methods: For this qualitative descriptive study, 9 cancer patients (42-63 years old) were interviewed individually and in depth using a semistructured guide. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data were concurrently collected and analyzed using a constant comparative method to develop major themes and categories.

Results: Data analysis revealed 3 themes: (1) biomedical aspect: TCM as a supplementary force to conventional medicine, (2) psychological aspect: different beliefs about TCM create different TCM uses, and (3) social aspect: interactions among patients, physicians, and economic issues.

Conclusions: Our study reveals that the phenomenon of using TCM is captured in a biopsychosocial model.

Implications for Practice: When assessing the issue of TCM use among cancer patients, healthcare providers must take into consideration its biological, psychological, and social aspects.

Author Affiliations: School of Medicine, College of Medicine (Dr Liu), and Graduate Institute of Nursing (Dr Tang), Chang Gung University; Department of Internal Medicine, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Dr Wang); and School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, College of Medicine, Chang Gung University (Dr Lee), Taoyuan, Taiwan.

This article has received award from The Foundation of Taiwan Medical Development Awards for Outstanding Writing in December 2010.

The authors have no funding or conflict of interest statement to declare.

Correspondence: Woung-Ru Tang, PhD, RN, Graduate Institute of Nursing, Chang Gung University, 259 Wen-Hwa 1st Rd, Kwei-Shan, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, Republic of China (

Accepted for publication December 26, 2010.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.