Perceptions of food and eating among Chinese patients with cancer: findings of an ethnographic study

Kirsten Bell, Joyce Lee, Svetlana Ristovski-Slijepcevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the ways that participants in a Chinese cancer support group talk about food, diet, and eating. An ethnographic research design was used, including participant observation at a Chinese cancer support group over an 8-month period and key informant interviews with 7 members of the group. Food, eating, and diet were a recurrent focus of discussion at support group meetings throughout the fieldwork period. The ways in which support group participants talked about food centered on 3 distinct but interconnected themes: the prevalence of eating issues as an adverse effect of cancer and its treatment, the importance of eating ability, and questions and concerns connected with the differing and often contradictory cultural models of diet that they were exposed to. Culturally specific understandings of the relationship between food and health informed Chinese patients' experience of eating issues during cancer treatments and their ongoing concern with food and nutrition after the completion of treatment. Health professionals need to pay more attention to the meanings and attributes of food and eating beyond their physiological properties, and further research needs to be conducted with other immigrant populations with culturally distinct understandings of food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-26
Number of pages9
JournalCancer nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2009


  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Canada
  • Comorbidity
  • Culture
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Prevalence
  • Social Perception
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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