The TCM View of Cancer
In TCM, cancer is formed in two ways: inner and outer circumstances.
Inner circumstances refer to internal conditions of the body. The state of the organs, and any blockage of Qi and blood flow in the body can cause cancer. Some people are born into this state of health, but TCM doesn’t refer to it as “genetic”; they simply have a higher chance of developing the disease if it has already occurred within the family.
According to TCM, the outer circumstances include the following areas which might influence the formation of cancer:
- Emotion: Excessive display of emotion is bad for the health. This includes being overly happy or excited.
- Diet: Too much oily, fatty and grilled foods could lead to cancer.
- Environment: Exposure to extreme temperatures, poor quality air, and toxic substances could lead to cancer.
TCM considers cancer an illness be treated holistically. This means that if a patient feels pain in the liver or lung due to cancer, the treatment involves removing the pain through different means rather than focusing on the liver or lung specifically.
TCM and Western Medicine
Should one already have cancer, TCM should not be the main treatment mode. Rather, Senior Physician He Qiu Ling of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic recommends TCM as a treatment to complement Western methods—such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy—at each stage of cancer treatment:
- Before: TCM herbs such as Prunella Spike, Dandelion and Andrographis are prescribed to control growth of the tumour.
- During: TCM can help build up a patient’s strength and reduce the side effects of chemo- and radiotherapies. Herbs will be prescribed to relieve side effects of such treatments (e.g. nausea and diarrhoea), and increase white blood cells. Such herbs include Astragalus, Chinese Dates and Ginger.
- After: TCM helps to enhance recovery and boost immunity to prevent relapse.
Is TCM for Everyone?
Yes, according to Senior Physician He. “Every cancer patient can go for TCM treatment,” she insists. “I have not seen any side effects.”
However, she admits that some might find TCM medication too bitter to swallow, while others may develop an allergic reaction. She also explains that the possibility of relapse depends on individual patients, how well their bodies absorb the medication, and whether they watch their diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
According to Senior Physician He, there seems to be a wider acceptance of TCM among Western oncologists these days. “I used to hear patients say that their Western-trained doctors used to warn them about taking Chinese medicine, that they will die or they will be refused treatment,” she says. “But for the last two years, I hardly hear these remarks anymore as more Western doctors start to recognise TCM. Patients are worried about how their doctors would react, and therefore prefer to keep it to themselves. Nowadays, we encourage patients to tell their Western doctors.”
This is an extract of an article by Lisa-Ann Lee that first appeared in NATURA Issue 4. Find NATURA at Eu Yan Sang retail outlets, newsstands and major bookstores in Singapore.