A controversy surrounded the death of Chinese actress Xu Ting from cancer after photographs of her bruised and swollen body were widely circulated on Chinese social media to highlight the dangers of using traditional Chinese medicine over conventional medicine, according to a report in the Guardian.
According to her post on the Chinese social media site Weibo, Xu was diagnosed with lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer of the lymphatic system, in July this year and she decided to opt for traditional Chinese therapy instead of chemotherapy because she feared it would be too painful and may even speed up her death.
“No matter how long I live, I want to enjoy every day happily,” she wrote on Weibo, adding that she did not want to “let chemotherapy torment me to the point where there’s no beauty and talent left”.
According to the Guardian report, later in July, she posted several pictures of the aftermath of the alternative treatments she was undergoing like acupuncture and cupping. Cupping was made famous by champion swimmer Michael Phelps when he appeared to have black marks on his body during the 2016 Rio Olympics. The technique involves “placing a flammable substance into a cup, typically a cotton bud, and setting it on fire. As the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on the skin creating a vacuum and leaving welts on the body,” the report said.
Several users on social media begged her to consider starting chemotherapy. The Guardian reported that one user wrote: “You need to rely on modern medicine to save yourself.”
However, by August, her condition had worsened without chemotherapy and according to the posts on her Weibo page, Xu’s sister stepped in and encouraged her to undergo chemotherapy. On 7 September, Xu passed away shortly after starting chemotherapy as her immune system had become too weak, according to the Guardian.
Following the news of her death, a debate has raged on Chinese social media about the use and effectiveness of Chinese traditional therapies.
According to the report, a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Cancer and Oncology Pain described the barriers some people faced obtaining conventional medical treatment. The authors of the study wrote that “Mainland Chinese attitudes are different from what we are accustomed to in the west”. “There is a feeling that care is being provided for personal gain. When individuals are ill, they go directly to hospitals, including traditional Chinese medicine hospitals, rather than seeing a non–hospital-based practitioner.”