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Symptom Distress and Its Association With Traditional Chinese Medicine Use in Chinese American Women With Cancer

Yiyuan Sun
Wendy Louie
ONF 2015, 42(1), E24-E32 DOI: 10.1188/15.ONF.E24-E32

Purpose/Objectives: To identify symptom distress related to cancer for a group of Chinese American women in treatment, and to examine their use of various forms of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and their relationships to specific symptoms they identified.

Design: Cross-sectional, correlational.

Setting: American Cancer Society Asian Initiatives support groups in the state of New York.

Sample: 97 Chinese American women residing in New York with a mean age of 57 years; the time since diagnosis of cancer ranged from two months to 24 years. The type of diagnosis for the majority of women was breast cancer.

Methods: A self-reported questionnaire including a demographic data form, a researcher-developed checklist for types of TCM, and the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale Short Form (MSAS-SF) were administered. The MSAS-SF has three subscales: global distress index, psychological symptom distress scale, and physical symptom distress scale.

Main Research Variables: Symptoms, symptom distress, and types of TCM. The descriptive statistics and Mann-Whitney U tests were applied for data analysis.

Findings: Chinese American women with cancer in treatment reported multiple symptoms, and the three MSAS-SF distress subscale scores indicated moderate symptom distress. Symptoms were positively associated with the use of TCM.

Conclusions: Chinese American women in treatment for cancer reported multiple symptoms and moderate symptom distress. Participants with specific symptoms tended to use specific forms of TCM.

Implications for Nursing: High prevalence of psychological symptoms for Chinese American women with cancer suggests that oncology nurses should work with mental health providers for symptom management of this population. Oncology nurses also need to stay informed of the growing body of evidence on the benefits of TCM for patients with cancer. Future studies should include an emphasis on the improvement in methodologic quality for studies that investigate using TCM in participants with cancer.

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