• 1 Clinical Research Centre, Hospital Seberang Jaya, Jalan Tun Hussein Oon, 13700, Perai, Penang, Malaysia.
  • 2 School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Gelugor, Penang, Malaysia
  • 3 Department of Clinical Oncology and Radiotherapy, Penang General Hospital, Jalan Residensi, 10990, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
  • 4 Traditional Chinese Medicine Oncology Physician, Guang'anmen Hospital (of Traditional Chinese Medicine), Beijing, No. 5, Bei Xian Ge, Xuan Wu District, Beijing, 100053, China
  • 5 National Poison Centre, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, Gelugor, Penang, Malaysia
Support Care Cancer, 2019 Dec;27(12):4515-4524.
PMID: 30911917 DOI: 10.1007/s00520-019-04724-1


PURPOSE: This observational study aimed to compare the outcome and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) amongst breast cancer patients using Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and those not using CHM during chemotherapy.

METHODS: A prospective, non-randomised longitudinal study was conducted in two government integrated hospitals over an 8-month period. Early-stage breast cancer patients who were (1) either already using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or not and (2) who were on a regime of 5-fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide were included in the study. Patients who agreed to receive CHM were assigned to receive individualised CHM prescriptions deemed suitable for the individual at a particular time. Those who were not willing to take Chinese herbal medicines (CHM) were assigned to the non-CHM control group. Blood profile and chemotherapy-induced AE were recorded whilst HRQOL assessment was done using the EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire on first, third, and sixth cycles.

RESULTS: Forty-seven patients [32 female vs. 1 male, p = 0.31; mean year of age: 52.2(SD = 7.6), p = 0.28)}] were recruited during the study period. Demographics of both groups were comparable. Fifty percent of respondents reported using some kind of CAM before chemotherapy. Diet supplements (40.6%) were the most common CAM used by the respondents. The study showed that patients using CHM had significantly less fatigue (p = 0.012), nausea (p = 0.04), and anorexia (p = 0.005) during chemotherapy. There were no significant differences in patients' HRQOL (p = 0.79). There were no AEs reported during the study.

CONCLUSION: The use of CHM as an adjunct treatment with conventional chemotherapy have been shown to reduce fatigue, nausea, and anorexia in breast cancer patients but did not reduce chemotherapy-associated hematologic toxicity. The sample size of this study was not powered to assess the significance of HRQOL between two groups of patients.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.