Evaluating Cancer Patients' Expectations and Barriers Toward Traditional Chinese Medicine Utilization in China: A Patient-Support Group-Based Cross-Sectional Survey

Integr Cancer Ther. 2018 Sep;17(3):885-893. doi: 10.1177/1534735418777117. Epub 2018 Jun 11.


Background: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is widely used among Chinese cancer patients. However, little is known about Chinese patients' expectations and barriers toward using TCM for cancer.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey within a patient-support group, the Beijing Anti-Cancer Association. We measured the outcome, Chinese cancer survivors' expectations and barriers toward TCM utilization, using a modified version of ABCAM (Attitudes and Beliefs towards Complementary and Alternative Medicine), the ABTCM (Attitudes and Beliefs towards Traditional Chinese Medicine). We used multivariate models to evaluate the impact of socioeconomic status and clinical factors on their expectations and barriers (including treatment concerns and logistical challenges domain) toward TCM.

Results: Among 590 participants, most patients expected TCM to boost their immune system (96%), improve their physical health (96%), and reduce symptoms (94%). Many had logistical challenges (difficulty decocting herbs (58%) and finding a good TCM physician (55%)). A few were concerned that TCM might interfere with conventional treatments (7.6%), and that many TCM treatments are not based on scientific research (9.1%). In the multivariable regression model, age ≤60 years was independently associated with higher expectation score ( P = .031). Age ≤60 years (coefficient 5.0, P = .003) and localized disease (coefficient 9.5, P = .001) were both associated with higher treatment concerns. Active employment status (coefficient 9.0, P = .008) and localized disease (coefficient 7.5, P = .030) were related to more logistical challenges.

Conclusion: Age and cancer stage were related to Chinese cancer patients' perceived expectations and barriers toward TCM use. Understanding these attitudes is important for reshaping the role that TCM plays in China's patient-centered comprehensive cancer care model.

Keywords: TCM utilization; cancer patients’ attitudes; cross-sectional survey; expectations and barriers; traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • China / epidemiology
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional* / methods
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional* / psychology
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Perception*
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult