Acupuncture as a Complementary Cancer Treatment
The "War on Cancer " here in the US has been going on for decades, and though progress has been made, the treatment of malignant tumors and blood diseases continues to be a harsh ordeal for the patient. While some cancers can be cured by surgery alone (e.g., some thyroid cancers), most others are treated with chemotherapy or radiation (or both) - sometimes in conjunction with surgical intervention.
Those patients treated with chemotherapy and radiation can suffer from a multitude of side effects, including:
Nausea and Vomiting
Muscular Aches and Pains
Gastrointestinal Problems including Diarrhea, Constipation and Hiccups
Weakened Immune System
Anxiety and Depression
Acupuncture is very helpful in ameliorating most of these symptoms. The World Health Organization acknowledged this in 1979, and later, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference, convened in 1997, issued a statement supporting acupuncture as an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
Chinese medicine can be employed along with standard cancer treatments to insure that the individual is as calm and healthy as possible, while the body is undergoing chemical and/or radiological assault on the abnormally growing cancer cells. Acupuncture can help to both strengthen the internal organs and assist in detoxifying the body of the harsh pharmaceuticals used during treatment. Acupuncture is especially helpful for toning the liver, kidney and lung, which are the principle organs of excretion of toxins (see this page for more about detoxification). Acupuncture is also excellent for increasing circulation in the body, which can aid in the effectiveness of the chemotherapy, as well as assist in toxin excretion.
Acupuncture works by addressing the body's underlying life-force energy, or Qi (pronounced, "chi"). In Chinese Medicine, we characterize the development of tumors or other abnormal overgrowth of cells in the body (as in leukemia), as a disturbance in the Qi or other essential bodily essences. We seek to treat these conditions by addressing the deficiency, imbalance and/or blockage of the Qi.
In China there are hospitals that specialize in treating cancer with Traditional Chinese Medicine, and feature the sophisticated use of Chinese herbal medicine, often in conjunction with standard Western modalities. In the US, the role of Chinese Medicine is primarily the use of acupuncture to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
over the years I have cultivated a balanced approach to treating cancer. In the absence of in-patient hospital support of herbal cancer treatment, it is beyond our scope to treat cancer solely with Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, as we address the side effects of western treatment, we also believe that it is important to address the underlying energetic imbalances that correlate to the development of the cancer in the first place. The formation of solid tumors is often accompanied by a blockage of Qi, which needs to be addressed separately from the Western medical treatment. Similarly, the underlying disharmony in blood diseases like leukemia also needs to be addressed. This multi-faceted approach has the added potential of helping to prevent future recurrence of the disease.
In summary, acupuncture can be employed to:
1. Address the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
2. Strengthen the internal organs
3. Increase circulation
4. Detoxify the body
5. Treat the underlying energy imbalances
6. Help bring overall balance to the patient's physical and emotional state
More and more cancer centers in the US are offering acupuncture as an adjunct to standard Western treatment, including Sloan-Kettering here in NYC. This is a welcomed development and needs to be taken further. In fact, the future of success in the "War on Cancer" may well lie at the interface between Chinese and Western medicine.