Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be scary and confusing. But with the right treatment and support, more and more cancer patients become survivors who enjoy a healthy long life. According to the National Institute of Health “the number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.”
There are many types of cancer, but in a way, every cancer is unique because you are unique and it’s against that backdrop that your cancer has happened. Many patients instinctively understand this and they choose to incorporate Chinese medicine into their treatment because it supports their whole body and addresses underlying patterns of disharmony. This doesn’t make Chinese medicine a replacement for the precision and power of conventional oncology but it does make it a helpful adjunctive treatment.
In Chinese medicine we see cancer as the perfect storm. By that we mean it usually created by very specific set of underlying conditions:
Firstly, weak qi: our bodies, when healthy, are capable of clearing up rogue cells. It is not until our immune systems become overtaxed because of stress, over work and fatigue, that our bodies are more likely to become over whelmed and be unable to maintain good health. In Chinese medicine we refer to this pattern as qi deficiency.
The second pattern we tend to see is stagnation. Whether it is stagnation of qi, blood, or phlegm, if left alone over a period of time this can contribute and lead to denser body tissue. Because of the poor blood flow, your body’s ability to remove debris is decreased. This makes it so that your body’s tissues are more susceptible to cancerous cells.
Lastly, we often see a pattern of toxicity play a role. The denser tissue is more likely to become cancerous if there is any toxicity in your body, which also includes the kind of internal toxicity created by our emotions. Toxicity in Chinese medicine can come from exposure to chemicals or agents (in the case of cancer it would be radiation, smoking, chemicals such as asbestos, and even viruses such as HPV). In the case of reproductive cancers that toxicity often comes from what’s called xeno-estrogens, which are chemicals that mimic estrogen and act on estrogen hormone receptor sites.
As a preventative for cancer, treatments for all of the above patterns in Chinese medicine include herbs and acupuncture treatments to tonify qi, move stagnation and clear heat and toxicity. We also suggest adequate rest, nourishing foods and stress relieving activities to help with qi tonification, as well as exercise and moving foods to help with qi and blood circulation. Removing as many xenoestrogens from your diet and lifestyle and limiting exposure to toxicity is also important to aid in the body’s own ability to detoxify and clean up cancer cells as they naturally occur.
Currently, most practitioners of Chinese medicine provide supportive care for patients through their cancer treatments including before and after surgery, through radiation and chemotherapy to help control side effects, and then afterwards to rebuild strength, improve quality of life, and prevent recurrence. For a list of ways we provide cancer supportive care, click here.