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Family Beliefs About Diet and Traditional Chinese Medicine for Hong Kong Women With Breast Cancer

Peggy Burrows Simpson
ONF 2003, 30(5), 834-840 DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.834-840

Purpose/Objectives: To explore beliefs about diet and traditional Chinese medicine related to the breast cancer experience of Hong Kong Chinese women and their families.

Design: Interpretive phenomenology.

Setting: Hong Kong, China.

Sample: A purposive sample of 20 Hong Kong Chinese women diagnosed with breast cancer at various stages of the illness trajectory and at least one other family member.

Methods: A semistructured, three-hour interview was translated, transcribed, and back-translated.

Findings: Many women and their family members believed that diet was responsible for their cancer and recurrence. They integrated their cultural beliefs about diet and traditional Chinese medicine to manage illness symptoms and prevent recurrence. Families were anxious and confused about conflicting messages from various sources about dietary practices to promote their health and prevent recurrence.

Conclusions: Food and diet alternatives should be discussed with the understanding that beliefs about diet and traditional Chinese medicine are embedded in culture and that many Chinese women and their families seek a combination of Eastern Chinese medicine and Western medicine strategies to manage the illness trajectory.

Implications for Nursing: Many Chinese families have different beliefs about food and diet and the role that food plays in managing the cancer experience. Often, Chinese people will not seek clarification if they do not understand information. If information does not fit with their predominant belief systems, families may not implement it, nor will they discuss a situation if they think the conversation will result in a relationship of conflict with healthcare providers.

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