The process and patterns of combining the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine in Taiwanese people with cancer

Shou Yu Wang, Carol Windsor, Patsy Yates


Objective: The nature of contemporary cancer therapy means that patients are faced with difficult treatment decisions about surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For some, this process may also involve consideration of therapies that sit outside the biomedical approach to cancer treatment, in our research, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Thus, it is important to explore how cancer patients in Taiwan incorporate TCM into their cancer treatment journey. This paper aims to explore of the patterns of combining the use of TCM and Western medicine into cancer treatment journey in Taiwanese people with cancer.

Methods: The sampling was purposive and the data collected through in-depth interviews. Data collection occurred over an eleven month. The research was grounded in the premises of symbolic interactionism and adopted the methods of grounded theory. Twenty four participants who were patients receiving cancer treatment were recruited from two health care settings in Taiwan.

Results: The study findings suggest that perceptions of health and illness are mediated through ongoing interactions with different forms of therapy. The participants in this study had a clear focus on “process and patterns of using TCM and Western medicine”. Further, ‘different importance in Western medicine and TCM’, ‘taken for granted to use TCM’, ‘each has specialized skills in Western medicine and TCM’ and ‘different symptoms use different approaches (Western medicine or TCM)’ may explicit how the participants in this study see CAM and Western medicine.

Conclusions/Implications for practice: The descriptive frame of the study suggests that TCM and Western medicine occupy quite distinct domains in terms of decision making over their use. People used TCM based on interpretations of the present and against a background of an enduring cultural legacy grounded in Chinese philosophical beliefs about health and healthcare. The increasingly popular term of 'integrative medicine' obscures the complex contexts of the patterns of use of both therapeutic modalities. It is this latter point that is worthy of further exploration.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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