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Tumors have become a common abnormality in modern day society. While many cancerous tumors have reached an advanced stage by the time they are discovered, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has become a viable treatment option.
Yuen Oi-lin, a registered traditional Chinese medicine practitioner in Hong Kong, references the program “100 Ways to Treat 100 Diseases” to show how TCM treatment can stimulate the body’s ability to fight disease, control the spread of cancer cells, and improve a cancer patient’s quality of life. She says that even advanced cancer patients can live alongside their tumors.
Despite the continuous development of modern medicine, the incidence of cancer cases remains consistently high. In the United States, more than 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. In Hong Kong, the incidence of cancer has increased at an annual rate of about 3.1 percent in the past 10 years.
Yuen noted both internal and external causes for tumor formation. The internal factor is a weak immune system, which is exacerbated by too much pressure from a typical modern-day lifestyle; while the external factor results from carcinogens in the environment. The latter comes from everyday toxins found in things such as food preservatives, formaldehyde in renovation materials, and the like.
TCM Strengthens the Body’s Immune Response
TCM treatment of cancer focuses primarily on enhancing the body’s immune response and ability to fight cancer. In terms of medication, Ruan noted that the herb commonly used to treat cancer is ginseng, because ginseng can greatly replenish vitality.
In TCM, qi and blood are the most important fundamental substances necessary for life. The concept of “qi” can be understood as the “vital energy” or “vitality” that constitutes life in the body. Yuan-primordial qi is the fundamental qi of the human body, which is crucial to promoting the physiological activities of various tissues and organs within the body.
Modern medicine is also aware of the potential of ginseng in the production of anti-cancer drugs. Hundreds of studies have been published proving the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits of ginsenosides and ginseng, and their positive impact on the immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
One 2017 study showed that ginsenosides in ginseng inhibit cancer cell metastasis, inhibit angiogenesis to retard tumor growth, and induce eventual cancer cell apoptosis.
In the theory of TCM, the meridian is the channel of energy in the human body, and the internal organs are connected to the surface of the human body through the meridians. Acupuncture can be used to treat cancers corresponding to visceral organs by activating the acupoints on the meridians.
“Relatively speaking, if there is a problem with the internal organs, there will be a problem with the acupoints where the disease qi will accumulate. Acupuncture at the appropriate acupoints can speed up the movement of energy in the meridians and let the disease qi dissipate faster. When combined with Chinese medicine, the effect will be even better,” said Yuen.
In terms of medication, Chinese medicine has “meridian affinity,” that is, the energy of different medicinal materials can correspond to different meridians in the human body. According to Ruan: “TCM uses plants and animals as prime sources of medicine. Plants and animals have the energy of the universe after being exposed to the sun and rain. If people lack energy, they will get sick. In Chinese medicine, the energy of plants is used to supplement the patient’s energy, and the disease will be cured.”
Medicine Plus Acupuncture May Cure Cervical Carcinoma in Situ
Yuen said that with this treatment method, she successfully cured a young woman suffering from carcinoma in situ of the cervix. Carcinoma in situ is an abnormal change in the cells of the cervix, a likely precursor of full-blown cancer that may follow. Western medicine usually uses surgery to remove the abnormal cells and may even need to remove the entire uterus. Ruan’s patient, who was not yet married, began to cry at the thought of possibly losing her womb. Fortunately, after acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment, when she went to the hospital for a pap smear a few months later, she found that her cervical cells had returned to normal.
The recovery experience of this female patient is not an isolated case. A study based on data in Taiwan’s national health insurance database showed that patients with cervical dysplasia who subsequently developed cervical cancer, had used less Chinese medicine than those who did not develop cervical cancer. The longer the patients received Chinese medicine, the lower their risk of developing cervical cancer.
Tumor No Longer Spreads in Advanced Cancer Patient
For tumors or cancers in the early stage, TCM treatment focuses on stimulating the body’s self-healing abilities to fight the tumor. For advanced cancer patients, TCM treatment can also inhibit the spread of cancer cells, improve symptoms of discomfort, and allow the patients to maintain their quality of life for a longer period.
One of Yuen’s patients, a man in his 70s, was diagnosed with stage 4 (terminal) throat cancer. Yuen recalls that he was very depressed when he initially came to see her. She asked him, “Are you worried?” He nodded in agreement. Yuen told him, “First of all, don’t mention the word ‘cancer,’ just say what problem you want to solve.” He replied, “I don’t sleep well, and have constipation.” Yuen replied, “I will help you solve the problem. If I can make you sleep and have a regular bowel movement, will you feel better?” The patient agreed.
Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called “moxa” are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences. Therapy can be a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion. In TCM, acupuncture and moxibustion are used singly or together to treat diseases.
Post acupuncture, moxibustion, and Chinese medicine, the patient’s insomnia and constipation symptoms improved. Prior to one of his clinic treatments, the patient’s phone rang. Yuen asked him to answer the phone first, but he refused. He said: “It’s the government hospital calling me for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The hospital said that if I didn’t do it, I would die in six months. I am very scared.” Yuen suggested that since Chinese medicine treatment had been effective, he could continue with the same treatment instead of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The patient chose to cancel the appointment with the hospital and continue his TCM treatment.
After that, the patient felt much more relaxed. In addition to acupuncture treatment and medicine, he practiced Zhan Zhuang—a meditative martial arts practice of standing still—while improving his daily eating habits, all under the guidance of Yuen. Six years later, he is still alive, is no longer as thin and frail as before, and has a much improved complexion. Although he can still feel the tumor in his throat, the cancer has stopped spreading. Blood tests show a normal cancer index with no detectable cancer cells.
Yuen said: “It is not particularly worrisome to have cancer. The main problem is how to deal with it. Some people die soon, and some can live for decades. The key is to let go of the load (worry) resting in your heart.”
TCM May Lower the Risk of Death in Advanced Breast Cancer Patients
Yuen recently treated a patient with advanced breast cancer. The cancer cells had spread, and ascites (a condition in which fluid collects in spaces within your abdomen) occurred, making radiotherapy and chemotherapy impossible. After acupuncture and taking Chinese medicine, the patient’s pain was relieved, and the edema disappeared.
For patients with advanced breast cancer, receiving traditional Chinese medicine treatment may prolong life. A study utilizing Taiwan’s health insurance database showed that patients with advanced breast cancer who were treated with TCM for one to six months had a 45 percent lower risk of death than those who received no TCM treatment. Those treated with TCM for more than six months had a 54 percent reduction in mortality.
In addition to giving acupuncture treatment and prescribing medication, Yuen also chatted with the patient and her family regularly to help alleviate her depression, having learned that the patient was worried about her child.
Yuen quoted from the Chinese medicine classic “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon” that “all diseases originate from qi,” and that qi in the body is affected by emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, and fear. Therefore, if you want to treat and prevent cancer, start with your mood first; do not get worried or angry too easily.
Acupoint Massage Strengthens Immunity
Yuen introduced the practice of massaging the Zusanli (ST 36) acupoint, making the body less vulnerable to tumors. The Zusanli is located about four transverse fingers width below the outer knee. She recommends regular massage of this acupoint while resting or watching TV. This can help strengthen the immune and digestive systems.
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