Cancer & TCM

 


Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has helped millions of individuals worldwide to reduce the risk of certain cancers and other conditions, as well as reduce conventional therapy induced side-effects.  The desire of any practitioner is to improve the quality and length of life of their patients.  Traditional Chinese medicine offers a broad range of natural, safe, and effective treatments that complements prevailing Western conventional cancer treatments.  TCM treatments may include: acupuncture, herbal prescriptions, dietary guidelines, life style changes, stress reduction, massage, tuina, qigong, heat/cold, electro-stimulation and others.  TCM is an optimal way to integrate the two systems of medicine, along with nutritional, emotional, and other life style changes.


Why Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine can play an important role in postoperative management and the alleviation of side-effects from radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.  Statistics in the United States show that almost all cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy or radiation, seek out a complementary adjuvant.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has developed a model of integrating conventional medicines powerful drugs and tools with a holistic approach to address the side-effects. TCM differentiates symptoms into patterns.  Meaning, that a TCM practitioner understands the pattern of pathological mechanisms, the organs involved (such as the liver, lungs, heart and spleen) and the conditions that are created as a result.  In the same manner a treatment program can be developed based on this pattern.  By grouping the key and general symptoms of a patients reactions to chemotherapy, along with a complete patient history, a TCM practitioner can develop an individualized treatment program.

TCM Treatment

There are variety of TCM treatment tools to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy.  The most important treatment tools are Chinese herbs and acupuncture. Acupuncture is most effective in treating pain, fatigue, and nausea caused by conventional cancer therapies. Herbs are often prescribed and may include ganoderma, astragalus, peony, and  honeysuckle, which are some leading herbs for supporting the immune system, enhancing energy, supporting the immune system, nourishing blood and  clearing toxic heat, respectively.  However, a professional Chinese medical practitioner usually prescribes a herbal formula (which is more potent and specific) based on a patients pattern differentiation.  Acupuncture or acupressure is very effective for cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.  Herbal medicine, like acupuncture, treats symptoms based on a careful differential diagnosis. Specific herbal substances may be used for particular conditions regardless of the overall energetic evaluation.


Traditional Chinese Medicine Categories of Cancer

TCM describes conditions in terms of patterns.  These patterns help to understand the cause and the subsequent treatment.  In terms of understanding the role of Stasis of the Fundamental Substances, patients with cancer tend to display the following :

  1. Qi Stasis: A mass that seems to appear and disappear or change in size, distending pain,, easy frustration, and irritability or other emotional reactions. The tongue is a dusky color, and the pulse is wiry.

  2. Blood Stasis: Stabbing pain that is sharp in nature, sharp, and masses fixed in origin. The tongue has distended sublingual veins, and the pulse is choppy.

  3. Phlegm: A subjective sensation of heaviness or sluggishness in the body, soft masses, and expectoration of a copious amount of phlegm. The tongue has a greasy coating, and the pulse is slippery and wiry.

Research Supported

A joint study conducted by researchers and medical doctors at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Beijing Ob/Gyn Hospital, the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Beijing Neurosurgery Institute, investigated the regulatory function of acupuncture on the immune system response of patients treated by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The results of the study  showed that acupuncture can strengthen and regulate the immunity of cancer patients, and significantly lessen the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  Another study from China showed that moxibustion on the back acupuncture points can significantly increase the white blood counts for cancer patients of middle and late stages.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) assembled a consensus conference to endorse acupuncture in 1997. After analyzing studies and interrogating practitioners, the panel was convinced that acupuncture is clearly effective for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and anesthesia.


Conventional Therapy Induced Side-effect The following discussion is not in any way intended to discourage the use of conventional therapies, but rather, to present possible complementary adjuncts to reduce the adverse side-effects.   Studies have demonstrated that Traditional Chinese Medicine can reduce many of the conventional therapy induced side-effects, allowing individuals to complete the therapeutic course, and assist with a faster recovery.  Conventional therapies commonly employed in the treatment of cancers include: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  Although radiation and chemotherapy may achieve the desired results, many patients gradually loose their ability to resist the toxic side-effects.  Moreover, the toxic build-up debilitates the body’s strength and can hasten the progress and or recurrence of the cancer, hence, the need for detoxification, and immune support.  Traditional Chinese Medicine does not treat cancer effectively and should not be used as a primary treatment modality. Cancer patients who wish to use TCM along with

conventional therapy should speak to their physicians and their TCM practitioner, so that a team approach to managing symptoms can be implemented.


Chemotherapy

The doses and schedules of chemotherapy drugs are designed so that the drugs will kill the rapidly dividing cancer cells and then be removed from the patients body before they can damage healthy cells (which divide more slowly).  However, three types of normal cells also divide rapidly:  the cells that make up the interior lining of the intestinal tract, hair producing cells and the bone-marrow cells. These three normal cells are also affected by the chemotherapy drugs.  Chemotherapy agents, being non-specific, tend to damage healthy cells and create a variety of systemic dysfunctions.  Cytotoxic drugs are used to destroy cancer cells by interfering with synthesis and function of nucleic acids during cell replication.  These toxic agents can damage normal cells and tissue, disrupt physiology and induce heart, kidney and liver damage, compromise the immune system, induce nausea & vomiting, weight loss, cachexia, dehydration, electrolyte & fluid imbalance, metabolic derangement, metabolic alkalosis, diarrhea, fatigue, malabsorption, dehydration, stomatitis, mucositis, constipation, pain with swallowing,  perversion of the sense of taste, or a bad taste in the mouth, dryness in the mouth from salivary gland dysfunction, and others.  Cancer chemotherapy arose shortly after World War II, when it was discovered that mustard gas, a poisonous gas used in World War I, disrupted cell growth.  Since penicillin – the magic bullet – had so rapidly changed the basis and thinking of medicine in the late 1940’s, chemotherapy researchers adopted a similar strategy for the treatment and cure of cancer. Their aim was to identify the offending invading cancer cells, find a magic bullet that functioned like penicillin, and to use these drugs to kill the invading cells.  Unfortunately, cancer cells are not alien cells, but rather our own cells, that have undergone an abnormal transformation, or aberrant expression.


Radiation

About half of all PTS receive radiation as part of their primary overall treatment.  It is used as an adjunct with chemotherapy or surgery. uses ionizing radiation to destroy cells.  It has increased affects in those areas of highly proliferating cells, and the side-effects depend on the area exposed.  The side-effects may include: inflammation in the gastrointestinal mucosa, nausea and vomiting, anorexia, malabsorption, pain with swallowing  dryness of the mouth, mucositis, dental decay, osteoradionecrosis, oral infection, impairment of speech, perversion of the sense of taste, or a bad taste in the mouth, fistulas and a compromised immune system.


Surgery

Is the oldest form of treatment and the most effective for certain solid tumors.  Surgery to any part of the body can put the patient at risk for infection, nutritional deficiencies, permeability problems, immunosuppression, adhesions, infection and others. 


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