Tumors have become a common anomaly in modern 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 practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong, refers to the “100 ways to treat 100 diseases” program to show how TCM treatment can boost the body’s ability to fight disease, control the spread of cancer cells and improve the quality of life of the cancer patient. She says even advanced cancer patients can live alongside their tumors.
Despite the continuous development of modern medicine, the incidence of cancer remains consistently high. In the United States, more than 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. In Hong Kong, cancer incidence has increased by about 3.1 percent per year over 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 lifestyle; while the external factor is due to carcinogens in the environment. The latter comes from everyday toxins found in things like food preservatives, formaldehyde in renovation materials, and the like.
TCM enhances the body’s immune response
TCM cancer treatment mainly focuses on improving 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, as 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 makes up life in the body. Yuan primordial qi is the fundamental qi of the human body, which is crucial for promoting the physiological activities of various tissues and organs in the body.
Modern medicine is also aware of ginseng’s potential in the production of cancer drugs. Hundreds of studies have been published demonstrating the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits of ginsenosides and ginseng, and their positive impact on the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
A 2017 study showed that ginsenosides in ginseng inhibit cancer cell metastasis, inhibit angiogenesis to slow tumor growth, and ultimately trigger apoptosis of cancer cells.
In the theory of TCM, the meridian is the energy channel 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 accumulates. Acupuncture on the right acupoints can speed up the movement of energy in the meridians and make disease qi disappear faster. In combination with Chinese medicine, the effect will be even better,” says 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 primary sources of medicine. Plants and animals have the energy of the universe after being exposed to sun and rain. When people don’t have energy, they get sick. In Chinese medicine, the energy of plants is used to replenish the energy of the patient and the disease will be cured.”
Medicine Plus Acupuncture can cure cervical cancer 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 to 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 uterus. Fortunately, after a course of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, when she went to the hospital for a pap smear a few months later, she found that her cervical cells had returned to normal.
This female patient’s recovery experience is not an isolated one. A study based on data in Taiwan’s national health insurance database showed that patients with cervical dysplasia who later developed cervical cancer had used less Chinese medicine than those who did not develop cervical cancer. The longer the patients were given Chinese medicines, the lower their risk of developing cervical cancer.
Tumor no longer spreading in patient with advanced cancer
For early-stage tumors or cancers, TCM treatment focuses on boosting the body’s self-healing ability to fight the tumor. For advanced cancer patients, TCM treatment can also inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, improve symptoms of discomfort and enable the patients to maintain their quality of life for a longer period of time.
One of Yuen’s patients, a man in his 70s, was diagnosed with stage 4 (terminal) throat cancer. Yuen remembers being very depressed when he first 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’m not sleeping well and I’m constipated.” Yuen replied, “I will help you solve the problem. If I can get you to sleep and have regular bowel movements, 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 near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and stimulate the flow of qi in the body and to expel certain pathogenic influences. Therapy may be a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion. In TCM, acupuncture and moxibustion are used alone or together to treat diseases.
After acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese medicine, the patient’s insomnia and constipation symptoms improved. Before one of his clinic treatments, the patient’s phone rang. Yuen asked him to pick up the phone first, but he refused. He said: “It is the government hospital calling me for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The hospital said if I didn’t do it I would die in six months. I am very scared.” Yuen suggested that since the treatment with Chinese medicines had been effective, he could continue with the same treatment instead of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The patient chose to cancel the hospital appointment and have his TCM continue treatment.
Afterwards, 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 Yuen’s guidance. Six years later, he is still alive, not 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 not spread. Blood tests show a normal cancer index with no detectable cancer cells.
Yuen said: “It’s not particularly worrying to have cancer. The big problem is how to deal with it. Some people die quickly, and some can live for decades. The key is to let go of the burden (worry) that rests 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 builds up in spaces in your abdomen) set in, making radiotherapy and chemotherapy impossible. After acupuncture and taking Chinese medicines, the patient’s pain was relieved and the edema disappeared.
For patients with advanced stage breast cancer, treatment with traditional Chinese medicines can prolong life. A study using the Taiwanese health insurance database showed that patients with advanced breast cancer who were treated with TCM for one to six months were 45 percent less likely to die than those who did not receive TCM treatment. Those treated with TCM for more than six months had a 54 percent reduction in mortality.
In addition to giving acupuncture treatments and prescribing medicines, Yuen also regularly talked to the patient and her family to help ease her depression after learning that the patient was worried about her child.
Yuen quoted from classical Chinese medicine “The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor” that “all diseases arise 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; don’t worry or get angry too quickly.
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 fingers wide below the outer knee. She recommends regular massage of this acupoint while resting or watching TV. This can help strengthen the immune and digestive system.