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An exploration of the meanings and experiences of cancer of Chinese people living and working in London


Professor Irena Papadopoulos, Furnival Building, Middlesex University, 10 Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK (e-mail:


This paper investigates the meanings and experiences of cancer of Chinese people living and working in London, in order to help the future development of culturally sensitive cancer information for Chinese people in the United Kingdom. A focus group interview method was used. Five focus groups (n = 35) were conducted in 2003 in London; these included Chinese health professionals, asylum seekers, immigrants with unknown status, Chinese young adults and Chinese elders. We found that the participants’ understanding of cancer reflected Chinese cultural beliefs about health and illness. There are some misunderstandings and lack of knowledge and information about cancer treatments, but they understand cancer to be life threatening. There is also a great reluctance to talk about cancer. The participants suggested that as well as receiving appropriate and early treatment, by either biomedicine or traditional Chinese medicine, or preferably, a combination of the two, an individual’s chances of surviving cancer could be enhanced by being provided with spiritual guidance and by being in a happy, positive mood. There is a need to improve knowledge about cancer in the Chinese community through the provision of culturally appropriate and accessible information on a variety of topics, including healthy lifestyles, cancer prevention and treatments, and by encouraging openness about cancer issues.