Chinese actress’ death sparks cancer treatment debate, traditional Chinese medicine over chemotherapy

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The death of a young Chinese actress from cancer has sparked a debate on social media – because she initially chose traditional Chinese medicine over chemotherapy.

Xu Ting, 26, was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the immune system, earlier this year.

However, she chose not to undergo chemotherapy, saying she had seen friends suffer from the procedure, and was concerned about the cost.

“I don’t want to let chemotherapy torment me to the point where I look unrecognisable, and have lost all my money, and myself,” she wrote on micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.

Instead, Ms Xu opted for traditional Chinese medicine methods, such as cupping, acupuncture, back stretching and a method called gua sha in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising.

As her condition got worse, she did eventually resort to chemotherapy – but died of cancer on 7 September.

Picture of Xu Ting undergoing cuppingImage copyrightWEIBO/@徐小婷KITTY
Image captionMs Xu opted for traditional Chinese methods including cupping

‘Useless cure’

Xu Ting first revealed her condition to the public in July, using her official Weibo account which has almost 300,000 fans.

She documented her journey online, posting several photos of herself undergoing traditional Chinese medicine treatments.

Picture of Xu Ting undergoing gua shaImage copyrightWEIBO/@徐小婷KITTY
Image captionGua sha is a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. It is believed to stimulate blood flow and healing

Her posts attracted the attention of tens of thousands of social media users – while many wished her well, several also urged her to undergo chemotherapy.

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“Listen to me, Chinese medicine is absolutely useless to cure cancer, if you don’t want to listen to me at least listen to a doctor,” one user commented.

“Please abandon the traditional treatments, it’s a fantasy. You need to rely on modern medicine to save yourself,” another said.

The actress, who is one of seven children, said that she had been working hard her entire life to pay for her brother’s tuition, her parent’s debt, and a house, but never felt comfortable spending money on herself.

After learning of Ms Xu’s death, there was intense debate over whether she would have survived if she had turned to chemotherapy, with the hashatg #XuTing’sDeathAndChineseMedicine trending on Sina Weibo.

Picture of Xu TingImage copyrightWEIBO/@徐小婷KITTY
Image captionThe actress is one of seven children

Some argued that traditional Chinese medicine should not be blamed for her death.

“There are many cancer patients who pass away after receiving chemotherapy. Will these same people also say that Western medicine is a sham?” said a writer from the Beijing Evening News.

“Chinese medicine is thousands of years old. Not everything Western doctors say is true,” another expressed.

Others argued that Ms Xu should have taken both types of treatment to complement each other, as chemotherapy would have targeted her tumour while traditional Chinese medicine could have helped alleviate her symptoms.

Image copyrightWEIBO/@徐小婷KITTY
Image captionIn Ms Xu’s last post, she wrote: “May Buddha bless all the pain away from me, it’s really too too painful”

“Both types of medicine have their own strengths and weakness. The point is you need to use them together,” said one user.

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It is not uncommon for Chinese patients to visit Western doctors for acute illnesses, but use traditional Chinese methods to prevent sicknesses or minor ailments.

Scientists are also beginning to research whether traditional Chinese medicine can treat or prevent cancer.

Many fans steered clear of the debate altogether – but expressed sadness that Ms Xu had died at such a young age.

“I’m sad that this is how I came to know you,” one user wrote. “I hope there’s no pain in heaven, and wish you well.”


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