• Vol. 43 No. 2, 74–78
  • 15 February 2014

The Use of Traditional Chinese Medicine Among Breast Cancer Patients: Implications for The Clinician



Introduction: Traditional Chinese Medicine or Traditional Complementary Medicine (TCM) is commonly used in our culture. There are several concerns regarding its use in patients undergoing conventional treatments for breast cancer. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the prevalence and pattern of TCM use among our breast cancer patients, and to identify patients who were most likely to choose TCM.

Materials and Methods: A total of 300 patients on active follow-up with Breast Service at Tan Tock Seng Hospital were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.

Results: A total of 35% (104 of 296) of patients reported using TCM. The majority of the patients were introduced to TCM by family and friends following the diagnosis of breast cancer. All except 3 patients continued with recommended conventional therapy although most did not inform their clinicians of TCM use. None of the patients reported any serious adverse events and 75% of them perceived a benefit from TCM use. Younger patients and those of Chinese ethnicity were more likely to use TCM (P <0.01 and P = 0.03 respectively). There was no significant difference in the dialect group, religious beliefs and educational level between the 2 groups (P >0.05).

Conclusion: TCM use is common among our breast cancer patients, particularly the younger women. However, most patients do not inform their clinicians of TCM use while on recommended conventional therapies. It is therefore important for clinicians to initiate discussions regarding TCM use in order to be aware of potential unwanted drug interactions.

Complementary and alternative medicine practices and products are often believed to be holistic and natural cures for many aliments. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one of the most commonly used forms of complementary medicine in our culture. Rather than treating just the disease condition alone, TCM philosophy strives to restore the balance between the yin and yang elements in the body in order to promote general well being. TCM is commonly used by those afflicted by cancer. It is believed to boost the immune system and relieve cancer-related symptoms as well as the adverse effects associated with conventional cancer treatments. Some also believe TCM to be effective in preventing disease recurrence.

This article is available only as a PDF. Please click on “Download PDF” on top to view the full article.