Experiences of Treatment-Related Side Effects and Supportive Care with Korean Medicine in Women with Breast Cancer - A Focus Group Study

유방암 환자의 항암 치료 부작용 및 한의학적 보완치료 경험에 관한 포커스 그룹 연구

  • Received : 2017.02.03
  • Accepted : 2017.02.14
  • Published : 2017.02.24


Objectives: To explore experiences of treatment-related side effects and supportive care among Korean breast cancer survivors (BCS). Methods: Focus group interview was conducted with six Korean women with breast cancer. Participants were recruited through snow-balling. Interview was audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. NVivo-11 was used to code the data into themes. Results: Two major themes were identified: (1) experiences of Western medicine, including treatment, side effects, needs and costs; (2) experiences of supportive care with Korean medicine, including the same as above. All participants experienced Western medicine in treatment phase and reported impairment of physical, emotional, and social functioning during and after Western medicine treatment. Only three participants used Korean medicine after treatments end. The negative responses from Western medicine doctors were the most important factor keeping participants from accessing Korean medicine when treatment-related side effects occurred. For this reason, some participants used Korean medicine without disclosure. Participants usually acquired information about Korean medicine from online community or other BCS, which was another important factor because it raised concerns about side effects and credibility of Korean medicine. High cost was also reported as barrier in using Korean medicine. During the cancer treatment, participants tended to endure their treatment-related side effects. Conclusions: Korean BCS may be at high risk of physical or emotional distress during treatment period. Findings suggest that there is a high need for supportive care to relieve treatment-related side effects and improve patients' quality-of-life. Furthermore, developing a systematic guidance or credible information sources should be warranted to help patients find the best supportive care options including Korean medicine.


Breast Neoplasms;Focus Groups;Korean Traditional Medicine;Integrative Medicine;Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions;Health Expenditures


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  1. A Case Study of a Patient with Breast Cancer Treated with a Combination of Traditional Korean Medicine and Chemotherapy vol.38, pp.5, 2017,


Supported by : 한국보건산업진흥원