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Cultural factors affecting Chinese migrants’ perceptions and responses to cancer pain and its pharmacological management: A convergent mixed-method study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2022

Xiangfeng Xu
Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia Kunming Medical University, Yuman Province, China
Tim Luckett*
Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Melanie Lovell
Centre for Learning & Research in Palliative Care, HammondCare, Greenwich, Australia Sydney Medical School, Sydney, Australia
Jane L. Phillips
Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Author for correspondence: Tim Luckett, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Level 7, 235 Jones St., Ultimo, PO Box 123, Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia. E-mail:



Studies identified barriers of pain reporting and use of analgesics impeding Chinese cancer patients to achieve optimal pain relief. No research has yet explored these issues in Chinese migrants, where cultural differences may exacerbate the barriers.


To explore cultural factors influencing Chinese migrants’ perspectives to cancer pain and its pharmacological management.


Informed by Leininger's Cultural Care Theory, focus groups and a short version of Barrier Questionnaire-Taiwan (S-BQT) were conducted in Mandarin or Cantonese, with 24 Chinese migrants receiving ambulatory cancer and/or palliative care services in Sydney, Australia. Integrated thematic analysis, descriptive statistics, and meta-inference were adopted for data analysis and integration.


Participants suffered uncontrolled cancer pain negatively affecting their physical and psychosocial well-being. Most experienced moderate to severe pain, but only a third used opioids. Most adopted non-pharmacological approaches and half used Traditional Chinese Medicine. Participants scored a mean S-BQT of 3.28 (standard deviation ± 0.89). Three themes and seven sub-themes contributed to higher barriers of pharmacological pain management: (1) Philosophical health beliefs (cancer pain are self-provoked and body can self-heal); (2) Cultural values and beliefs (cancer pain is inevitable, and Chinese people express pain differently to local people); and (3) Conflicting views on the use of opioids (culture-related negative medication beliefs, Western biomedical model-related opioid fears, and opioids extend life for people with terminal cancer pain).


Chinese migrants’ responses to cancer pain and attitudes towards opioids are complex. Culturally congruent strategies are needed to overcome culture-related barriers and improve quality of cancer pain care in this population.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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