Cancer is a disease in which healthy cells stop functioning and maturing properly. As the normal cycle of cell creation and death is interrupted, these newly mutated cancer cells multiply uncontrollably, no longer operating as an integrated and harmonious part of the body. They also act parasitically, developing their own network of blood vessels to siphon nourishment away from the body's supply.
This process allows a tumor to grow, free from the restraints to which other cells are subject. Cancer cells split off from the tumor and enter the bloodstream, and in this way spread to other parts of the body. The result is the formation of additional tumors, which further sap the body's energy supply, weakening and perhaps even killing the patient.
There are more than one hundred different types of cancer, affecting virtually every part of the body. Broadly, cancer can be classified into the following five basic categories:
TCM view of cancer:
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) views cancer as a slowing or stoppage (stagnation) in the flow of Substances in the body. In particular, cancer is understood to have underlying factors that allow cancer to develop. For example, factors such as Qi Stagnation, Blood Stasis, and Phlegm, are responsible for masses and abnormal cellular growth. These three types of stasis are thought to result from a variety of factors including emotional disharmony (which is said to cause stasis in the body), improper diet and exercise, and External Pathogenic Factors (which may remain in the body and cause stagnation).
Traditional Chinese Medicine Categories of Cancer:
The type of stagnation underlying a TCM understanding of cancer depends upon signs and symptoms and the Zang Fu Organs affected. This stagnation is then examined in terms of the body's overall energetic features and the state of the Zang Fu, the Substances, and the Meridians.
In terms of understanding the role of Stasis of the Fundamental Substances, patients with cancer tend to display the following:
Blood Stasis: Sharp, stabbing pain and masses fixed in origin. The tongue has distended sublingual veins, and the pulse is choppy.
Phlegm: Soft masses, a subjective sensation of heaviness or sluggishness in the body, and expectoration of a copious amount of phlegm. The tongue has a greasy coating, and the pulse is slippery/wiry.
Cancer mechanism according to TCM:
When pathogenic factors invade the body, it is the vital qi which will protect the body by fighting and eliminating the pathogens. As a result, vital qi becomes weakened. According to western medicine, one cause of cancer is a weakened immune system which fails to detect and destroy cancerous cells in the early stages. This theory agrees with the weakened vital qi theory in TCM: “If the vital qi is strong inside, evils will not be able to invade; if evils accumulate, the vital qi must be weak.”
Signs & symptoms of BL stasis & Phlegm accumulation:
Blood stasis: This pattern is present in almost all cancer patients. In addition to the tumours and masses with pains, distension and fullness, the pain is usually sharp and pricking with fixed locations and worse at night; dark facial complexion; thin body with rough and scaly skin; obstructed bowel movement, purple dark tongue with black or dark spots; thin and wiry pulse, or choppy pulse. All the symptoms and signs are caused by the stagnation of qi flow and the stasis of blood. To treat this condition, the doctor has to promote qi flow, remove qi stagnation, invigorate blood and remove blood stasis.
Phlegm accumulation: Patients with this pattern usually feel very weak and tired, with no desire to eat, abdominal fullness, bloating and distension, loose stool or diarrhea, edema of the lower legs, water retention in the abdominal cavity or jaundice. A pale, swollen tongue and deep, weak pulse are common. Treatment principle is to tonify the spleen, resolve dampness phlegm, promote digestion and eliminate water retention.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Approach to Cancer:
Modern research on herbal treatment for cancer-related health issues has produced evidence that the following traditional Chinese medicine herbs are very effective when used by experienced practitioners. They represent four areas of treatment that are particularly important to breast cancer patients.
Herbs for Depressing Cancer Cells, i.e. Shan Ci Gu
Herbs with Anticancer Properties, i.e. Ban Zhi Lian
Herbs for Immunity, i.e. Huang Qi
Herbs for Preventing Alterations, i.e. Nu Zhen Zi
In addition to herbal approach Acupuncture can be used to boost the immune system and alleviate the side effects of conventional therapy such as pain, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, skin rashes, and etc.
In China, the vast majority of cancer patients use traditional Chinese medicine along with conventional therapies during and after cancer treatment. In this country, more and more cancer patients are discovering the benefits of complementary care.
Patterns in post-conventional therapy patients:
Traditional Chinese medicine differentiates and addresses three common patterns in post- conventional-therapy patients.
1- Qi Blood Deficiency: Research shows that patients with the pattern of Qi Blood Deficiency have a lower cell immunity response than normal people.
Signs & symptoms: Hair loss; dizziness; fatigue; a thin body; shortness of breath; poor appetite; insomnia; palpitations; abdominal pain with menstruation; a pale complexion; loose stools; scanty urine; a pale tongue with a white tongue coating; and a deep-thin-weak pulse.
2- Qi & Yin Deficiency: Studies show that patients with Lung Qi Deficiency have a lower lymphocyte transformation rate and lower levels of sero-immunity globulins such as IgM and IgG.
Signs & symptoms: Sweating; palpitations; shortness of breath; insomnia; chest congestion; cough without phlegm; lassitude; dry mouth; a thin tongue coating; and a thin pulse.
3- Dryness with Heat Toxins: A serious concern of cancer patients is the toxins that are generated in the body by conventional therapies.
Signs & symptoms: Swelling and pain after conventional treatments; nausea; vomiting; constipation; dark yellow urine; a red tongue with a yellow coating; and a rapid pulse.
Carcinomas, the most common cancers, originate in tissues that cover a surface, or line internal organs. Lung, breast, prostate, skin and intestinal cancers are all carcinomas.
Sarcomas originate in connective tissues and muscles, attacking bones, muscles, cartilage, or the lymph system. They are the rarest malignant tumors, and also the most deadly.
Myelomas are also rare tumors; they start in plasma cells found in the bone marrow.
Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph system, a series of glands that act as a filter for the body's impurities. Lymph glands (nodes), are found in the neck, the groin, the armpits, and the spleen.
Leukemias are cancers originating in the tissues of the bone marrow, spleen and the lymph nodes. Leukemias are not solid tumors and result in an overproduction of white blood cells.