Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to assist a number of clients with their cancer treatments. Most of them have used acupuncture and herbal medicine as complementary therapies while they underwent conventional cancer care. I am happy to share with you my findings as a result of my experience working with them.
As acupuncture and Chinese medicine gain credence in the West, they are increasingly being used in conjunction with conventional western medicine to treat a range of illnesses, including cancer. Acupuncture has received much attention for its use in cancer pain, and post-operative and chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. The American Cancer Society has recommended its use for cancer and cancer-related symptoms like neuropathy, limb edema, and pain. Acupuncture can also help increase energy and appetite as it boosts immunity and relieves stress in patients undergoing cancer treatments.
Cancer arises from abnormal changes in the genetic makeup of cells that causes the malignant cells to multiply uncontrollably. In Chinese medicine this is known as the “Yin and Yang separating”, in which the functional activity of the cell (Yang) loses touch with the intelligent guidance (Yin) of the cell’s activity. In conventional medicine several factors are believed to trigger the cell mutations which cause cancer including genetic heredity, immune dysfunction, diet, extreme stress, hormone therapy, and environmental toxins.
Common conventional cancer therapies include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. All these can be very helpful, but they also cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, malaise, fatigue, neuropathies, decreased immune activity, lack of appetite, and post-surgical and other pain.
The traditional Chinese medicine treatment of cancer is based on the principle of Fu Zheng Pei Ben. Fu Zheng therapy refers to supporting the Correct Qi of the body, and strengthening the Qi of the organs in order to fight disease. This is based on the belief that the body has the ability to help itself heal and to expel pathogenic influences. Fu Zheng therapy also helps to improve the body’s organs ability, particularly the kidneys and liver, to detoxify and eliminate pathogens and toxins, such as the drugs used in chemotherapy. When combined with conventional cancer treatments, Fu Zheng therapy helps the conventional treatments work more effectively.
Acupuncture can help cancer patients in the following ways:
- Relieves nausea and vomiting.
- Boosts immunity thereby reducing risk of secondary infections such as colds, flu, shingles, etc.
- Increases red blood cells and platelets, both of which are decreased with chemotherapy, thus helping with anemia and fatigue, and allowing patients to tolerate conventional treatments better.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Relieves pain and neuropathy, which are a common side effect of chemo and radiation.
- Improves overall health and well being.
Cancer is not a death sentence. Educating ourselves about what options are available for treatment and overall healing can only improve our chances to live a healthier and happier life. While conventional medicine has its place, a more pronounced shift towards prevention, treating the whole person, and allowing an individual’s natural healing abilities to take part in the healing process, is necessary if we truly want to promote health. This is where the integration of eastern with western medicine can truly make a difference.
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