Use of Chinese medicine by women with breast cancer: a nationwide cross-sectional study in Taiwan

Complement Ther Med. 2011 Jun;19(3):137-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 2.


Objectives: The National Health Insurance (NHI) provided Western medicine (WM) and Chinese medicine (CM) in Taiwan. This study aims to explore CM use by women with breast cancer under NHI.

Methods: Using NHI Research Database, a retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted. Women with breast cancer were identified by diagnosis codes. Their claims of CM and WM outpatient services of 2007 were analyzed.

Results: Among 70,012 female breast cancer patients, the prevalence of insurance covered CM was 35.6%. Among all CM users, 4379 (17.5%) patients visited CM for breast cancer. More than half CM users (67.6%) had less than 6 visits and 16.3% users had more than 12 visits. The majority of CM users (87.6%) also used WM ambulatory services. Private clinics (76.7%) provided the most CM services, followed by private hospitals (16.9%). The most frequently used CM therapies were Chinese herbal medicine (80.5%), followed by acupuncture/traumatology manipulative therapies (22.3%). The average cost of CM was US$17.6 per visit and US$119.7 per user annually. CM users were more likely to be younger than 60 years old, employees, with higher income, and not living in Northern Taiwan.

Conclusions: A significant portion of breast cancer patients used insurance covered CM. Most CM users also used WM. The potential of drug-herb interactions should be concerned.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Breast Neoplasms / economics
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care* / economics
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hospitals, Private / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / economics
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations
  • Phytotherapy
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Taiwan


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal