Olivier Lejus examines the role Chinese Medicine is playing in treating mankind's most feared disease, cancer
It would be safe to say that in last few decades, cancer has become of one of the most frightening words in any language known to mankind. Being diagnosed with this complex illness brings to anyone the sudden reality that potentially their life is about to end.
Our body is made up of billions of microscopic cells, which are similar to the miniature pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. These wonderful little workers are forever busy building and repairing the tissues and the organs of our body. Throughout our lives, they are constantly being replaced. Cancer occurs when the cells become abnormal and begin to grow uncontrollably, invading nearby parts of the body. Until the reproduction of these alien cells is stopped, they will gradually spread and destroy everything in their path.
In response to these attacks, modern medicine has invented some powerful weapons in the form of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Unfortunately, as a form of treatment, it is similar to injecting powerful poisons into the body to kill the unwelcome visitors. This causes a lot of very unpleasant side effects.
In China, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine have been successfully used for decades as supportive treatments to Western medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine has the ability to enhance the therapeutic effects and reduce the side effects of conventional therapies in several ways. As an example, chemotherapy reduces the production of white blood cells in the body, and weakens the digestive system. In response, Chinese Herbal Medicine can be administered to boost the production of these blood cells and alleviate symptoms of tiredness, palpitation, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, numbness and hair loss.
As another example, when radiation therapy is unable to produce the desired outcome, the malignant tumours have to be surgically removed. In such cases acupuncture is often used post surgery as a pain control tool to reduce narcotic use and minimise the resulting side effects of behavioural changes, confusion and constipation. It can also be helpful in shortening the resolution of haematoma and tissue swellings after surgery.
Even in the terminal stages of cancer, Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve the quality of life of the patient by relieving the symptoms when their body is too weak to accept powerful pharmaceutical medications.
Vivien Griffiths PhD was a coordinator of post graduate studies at Southern Cross University in Northern New South Wales when she was diagnosed with breast cancer over 10 years ago. She undertook chemotherapy treatments before having the tumour surgically removed. Following her mastectomy, she began receiving acupuncture along the surgical scar. She was surprised to see that within 12 hours after treatment, her scar had changed colour from blue to warm pink, and her pain level had decreased significantly. This allowed her to begin lymphatic drainage, and rigorous physiotherapy almost immediately. It showed the important role of acupuncture in boosting the immune system after chemotherapy and radiation, as well as in preventative care. Years later, as a cancer survivor, she is convinced of the enormous benefits of this form of treatment after cancer surgery.
Unfortunately, many patients are left with the impression that in conventional medicine a healthy immune system doesn’t appear to be that important. One is sent back home to recover, told to report for a check up once a year, and left to hope for the best.
But can acupuncture boost the immune system to such an extent that the cancerous growth can be stopped? This is exactly what a Taiwanese practitioner named Dr Wang Fuda has been doing for over 40 years at the Greenville research clinic in Southern Taiwan.
Due to his high success rate, the Taiwanese doctor is in great demand. He routinely treats upwards of 80 patients a day, six days a week. In his clinic, Western and Oriental medical systems are working in harmony. Dr Fuda combines conventional manual acupuncture with electronic stimulation to regulate Qi and blood in the body.
The doctor’s preference is for the patient to receive acupuncture after surgery. As he explains, while normally the cancer cells are stronger than the healthy human ones, for a short period after the operation the remaining malignant cells are weakened. This is the optimum time to stimulate the immune system to destroy the remaining pathogenic cells once and for all. For the two weeks following surgery, the number of acupuncture treatments is increased to take advantage of this short window of opportunity to eliminate the pathogen.
Using this method alone, Dr Fuda has achieved amazing clinical results, providing his patients are willing to receive ongoing treatments almost daily at first, then weekly for several months after surgery. It is not a problem in Taiwan where acupuncture is widely accepted as a primary form of care. In this country, few patients would probably be prepared to undertake such a rigorous regime for a long period of time. Nevertheless, it gives us hope that there could be a less traumatic form of treatment in the near future.
We will discuss Dr Fuda’s fascinating methods in more detail next month.
Olivier Lejus MHSc.(TCM), BHSc.(Acup.) is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney