How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) help in cancer treatment?
Cancer is one of the major diseases that seriously endanger human health and threaten human life. After discovering a tumour, most patients seek surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and other western medical treatments. However, one type of treatment often works partially, therefore requires multidisciplinary and comprehensive treatment.
The advantages of TCM in the treatment of cancer are not only in the middle and late stages, but can be used in the adjuvant and basic treatment of all types of cancers, participating in all stages of cancer treatment. The combination of TCM and western medicine can complement each other's strengths to achieve the purpose of treating both the symptoms and root causes.
What are the advantages of TCM in treating cancer?
TCM has unique theories that emphasize a holistic approach, which views the patient as a whole, rather than the cancer itself. Currently, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy could affect the immune system, and TCM can help to adjust the patient’s overall functions, correct the imbalance between Yin and Yang, and improve the recovery ability, thereby prolonging the patient’s survival period with good long-term efficacy. The role of TCM in the treatment of cancer is as follows:
Relieve cancer pain symptoms: About 20%-50% of cancer patients have cancer pain, and over 75% of patients with late-stage cancer have experienced pain. From the perspective of TCM, the cause of cancer pain is mainly due to internal accumulation of cancer toxins, blockage of Qi, stagnation of Qi and Blood, weakness of healthy Qi, and loss of nourishment of meridians. Several studies have confirmed that acupuncture can induce the body to release endogenous endorphins, which have an analgesic effect on cancer pain. The external treatment with TCM herbs can also relieve pain effectively, and is non-addictive, safe, simple and easy to use, it is widely used in clinical practice.
Alleviating the side effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy: Radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as a common method of cancer treatment, can effectively kill tumour cells and inhibit their growth and reproduction, but it will inevitably cause varying degrees of side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, skin rash, liver function damage, and etc. TCM not only reduces the side effects, but also enhances the effectiveness of treatment by improving the Qi and Blood environment, stabilizing the body’s internal environment, and helping to protect the bone marrow and maintain the hematopoietic function.
What are the treatment methods of TCM?
There are many ways to treat cancer in TCM, apart from taking TCM herbs orally, acupuncture, cupping, topical application of TCM herbs can also be applied. The treatment methods of TCM can be summarized as follows:
The method of supporting the righteousness and strengthening the root: Supporting the righteousness and strengthening the root means supporting the vital energy of the human body, regulating the Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang and tonifying the weak condition of the human body in order to enhance the immune function of the patient and strengthen the ability to resist and eliminate disease. Therefore, many studies show that TCM herbs have the effect of suppressing tumours by improving immune function.
The method of activating blood and removing stasis: Blood stasis and accumulation of stagnant blood in the body becomes cancer over time is an integrated part of TCM in understanding tumour pathology. Therefore, it is not difficult to notice that tumour patients often present with blood stasis manifestations such as local lumps, fixed pin prick-like pain and varicose veins under the tongue. The method of activating blood mainly involves improving microcirculation and reducing the coagulation effect of platelets by using herbs that promote blood circulation and eliminate stagnation, thereby inhibiting tumour metastasis, improving the sensitivity of radiotherapy and chemotherapy drugs, and preventing side effects such as radio fibrosis.
The method of clearing heat and detoxifying: From the perspective of TCM, inflammation is related to heat, and heat knots produce cancer, hence patients with middle and late-stage malignant tumours often have symptoms such as fever, pain, enlarged lumps, thirst, constipation, and etc. These are related to the internal accumulation of evil-heat, so should be treated with heat-clearing and detoxifying TCM herbs in order to improve the quality of life of patients.
The method of softening and dispersing knots: Tumour morphology describes ‘mass formation’, so the ancients physician put forward the view that "those who have knots shall be disperse" and "those who are firm shall be eliminated”, hence tumour should be softened and dispersed to inhibit the tumour directly, reduce its invasiveness and prevent metastasis.