The C Word: Supporting Patients Undergoing Cancer Treatment.

By Katika Funnell - Acupuncturist

Despite Doctors of Medicine discouraging the use of any supplements, herbs or complementary medicine (CAM) in regards to Cancer, you do have a choice. I'm not advocating using one OR the other, but using the best of BOTH worlds. My inspiration for this article is a recent seminar by Professor Li of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine who specialises in treating Cancer patients at various stages of chemo & radiotherapy as well as pre & post cancer surgery.

Professor Li had experience of 203 cases of Cancer Patients seeing an improvement in their daily quality of life and symptoms using Chinese Herbal Medicine. The Cancer types included Lung, Colon, Prostate and Breast among several others.

In China, they have different regulations regarding the legalities of treating this disease; meaning, less restrictions to discuss herbs and acupuncture's role in helping Cancer sufferers. In Australia Chinese Herbalists and other Natural therapists are able to support Cancer sufferers for the side effects of conventional treatments which can range from nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, pain relief, constipation, fatigue, immunodeficiency to insomnia.

It is important to distinguish immediately that in Australia, health practitioners outside the medical profession cannot claim to treat, improve or reduce Cancer. Methods such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy remain some of the mainstream treatment procedures for Cancer throughout the World, yet they do have side effects.

Can TCM help? Yes it Can!
According to Chinese Medical Theory and the studies of another TCM Practitioner Dr Henry Liang, there are 4 factors that can show in a patient suffering from Cancer of some type.
•    Toxic Heat
•    Phlegm Accumulation
•    Blood Stasis
•    Deficiency or weakness
NB: This is not a medical diagnosis, this is Chinese Medicine's interpretation of the symptoms Cancer patients present with. A medical diagnosis can only be sought by your GP or specialist.

Cancer patients suffering symptoms as a result of conventional medical treatments are able to seek Chinese herbal prescriptions or Acupuncture consultations to support their condition. A fully qualified Chinese Medicine Practitioner uses techniques such as pulse and tongue diagnosis to assess the appropriate supportive treatment.

Toxic Heat may show as infection, inflammation, rapid enlarging of the tumour, fever, thirst or constipation. Herbs such as Scute, Prunella, Dandelion and Rhubarb are traditionally used in Chinese medicine to cool severe heat.

Phlegm Accumulation may show as lumps and masses, spreading or metastasis, coughing of mucus, discomfort in the chest or stomach. Herbs such as Pinellia, Triconanthes Fruit, Apricot seed and Kelp are traditionally used in Chinese medicine to soften masses and reduce phlegm.

Blood Stasis may show as lumps and masses, viscous blood or sharp stabbing pain. Herbs such as Notoginseng, Red Peony, Persica and Salvia are traditionally used in Chinese medicine to reduce blood viscosity, promote blood generation.

Deficiency may show as Immunodeficiency, pale complexion, shortness of breath, cold extremities, sweats easily or at night, dry throat or low grade fever. Deficiency is associated with Cancer in general- supporting the Zheng Qi is paramount. Herbs such as Ginseng, Codonopsis and Astragalus are traditionally used in Chinese medicine to enhance immune function.

An Acupuncture clinical trial in 2006 has suggested that electroacupuncture may have benefits for chemotherapy induced vomiting. Another clinical trial in 2008 has suggested that acupressure is beneficial for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.

Conventional treatments recommended by an oncologist is an important part of fighting Cancer. How someone chooses to support themselves through this treatment process is a highly personal issue and must be respected.

The main benefits that may be achieved from Chinese Medicine include:
•    Relieving some side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy eg nausea & vomiting
•    Alleviating symptoms associated with Cancer eg. Fatigue, Anaemia, Pain
•    Supporting immune function and energy levels
•    Remission support
For more information about support for Cancer sufferers and how natural therapies can assist general wellbeing during this time, please contact The Family Wellness Centre on (02) 9938 1090(02) 9938 1090 or go

References: Liang, Dr. H. SunTen Professional Seminar Series- Support of Patients Undergoing Cancer 2009
Li, Prof. Medicine Pearls Seminar & Notes, University of Technology Sydney July 2013.

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