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Importance of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cancer Therapy

Chinese herbal medicine has been used along with conventional treatment such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It helps to ease the side effects of conventional treatment, control pain, improve quality of life, strengthen the immune system and in some cases, stop tumour growth and spread.

In Singapore, cancer patients can seek TCM treatment at the following non-profit medical institutions :

   Thong Chai Medical Institution
Adddress : 50 Chin Swee Road
Opening hours : 8am to 11am, 12:30pm to 3:30pm and 6pm to 8:30pm on weekdays; 8am to 11am on Saturdays
Telephone no. : 6733 6905

   Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution
Branches : Toa Payoh, Telok Ayer, Yishun and Woodlands
Opening hours : 9am to 12pm, 1pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9pm from Mondays to Saturdays
Telephone no. : 6251 3304


In May 2006, Renci Hospital started The Ren TCM Oncology Centre (a collaboration with the Chengdu TCM Board in China) at Camden Medical Centre. Patients at the centre will be given herbal medication or acupuncture, or both. Consultation fees range from $30 to $40 and medication will cost a few dollars a day. For more information, please call 6836 9917.

Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre (owned by SingHealth and Shanghai Hospital Development Centre) at SGH was officially opened on 20 November 2007. Five master TCM physicians from Shanghai, regarded as 'national treasures' in China will take turns to serve as visiting consultants to treat local patients. China has only about 200 of these masters, whose status is conferred by the government. Each consultation will cost $100. There is one 'cancer expert' among them. For more information, please call 6327 7866.

SGH will not refer its patients to the centre for treatment but will collaborate with the centre in research on cancer and other illnesses.


Definition of a Good Chinese Physician
Quotes From The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine

"A good healer cannot depend on skill alone. He must also have the correct attitude, sincerity, compassion and a sense of responsibility. The patient must also be aware of his or her body in order to recognize signs and symptoms and imbalances. That patient can then seek remedies at the earliest possible moment. When doctor and patient are in a state of harmony, the illness will not linger or become terminal."

"A physician needs to possess a moral conscience, ethical conduct, and a compassionate attitude toward those in need of attention. In all interactions with patients, the physician is always composed, takes the necessary time, remains objective, and performs every procedure with the utmost care and precision."

Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM & Cancer The following write-up was adapted from Cancer and Natural Medicine, (ISBN 096482806) with kind permission received from the author, Mr John Boik.


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) includes the modalities of acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion (heat therapy), tui na (massage), qi qong (exercises for internal energy), diet therapy and meditation.

The theory of TCM differs significantly from that of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine tends to emphasize the biochemical and cellular aspects of pathology, whereas TCM emphasizes the macroscopic relationships present between different bodily systems. TCM views the body, mind and spirit as interconnected. Any change in one part of the organism necessarily affects the whole.

What are the causes of diseases?

In TCM, diseases arise from one or more of three types of causes :


Internal Causes of Disease

The internal cause of disease is emotional upset. The seven emotions that are subject to upset are:
  1. Anger
  2. Joy
  3. Worry
  4. Pensiveness
  5. Sadness
  6. Fear
  7. Shock

Any emotional imbalance affects the movement of qi. However, the excessive and long-standing imbalances manifest most clearly in disease patterns. Emotional factors are not to be taken lightly, as they are one of the most frequent causes of disease.

Excesses of the seven emotions affect the qi in the following ways :
  • Excess anger affects the liver and makes the qi rise upward
  • Excess joy (excessive excitement) affects the heart and slows the qi down
  • Excess worry affects the spleen and lungs and stagnates the qi
  • Excess pensiveness affects the spleen and stagnates the qi
  • Excess sadness affects the lungs and weaken the qi
  • Excess fear affects the kidneys and descends the qi
  • Excess shock affects the kidneys and heart and scatters the qi

Emotional imbalances cause aberrations in the movement of qi, which in turn, leads to a variety of physical symptoms. For example, excessive upward movement of qi can result in vomiting or headaches. Excessive downward movement of qi can result in diarrhea or incontinence. Excessive scattering of qi can result in weakness and palpitations. Excessive stagnation of qi can result in pain.

Emotion-based qi diseases cannot be prevented simply by expressing emotions freely, although in some cases, this may be a necessary step. The most profound preventive medicine is self-cultivation through meditation, whereby a sense of peace and ease is developed.


External Causes of Disease

External causes of disease are TCM's six climate factors :
  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Dampness
  4. Summer heat
  5. Dryness
  6. Fire

These may affect a patient either singularly or in combination. Under normal circumstances, exposure to these climate influences do not result in pathology. However, if the exposure is excessive, the climate factor is particularly strong, or the patient is weak, a disease pattern can develop.

The six climatic factors produce symptoms that are symbolically akin to themselves :
  • Wind symptoms act like the wind. They arise suddenly, move freely around the body, vibrate and change rapidly. The wind is said to act as a carrier, for bringing heat, cold and dampness into the body. Wind symptoms include tremors, convulsions, stiffness, paralysis and itching.
  • Cold symptoms act like cold. They are slow, cold and cause contractions and pain. Cold symptoms include a slow pulse, chills, pain and muscle contractions.
  • Heat symptoms act like heat. They are red, hot, dry and overactive. Heat symptoms include fever, skin rashes, fast pulse, delirium and irritability.
  • Damp symptoms act like dampness. They are wet, heavy, slow and often recalcitrant. Damp symptoms include turbid and sticky discharges, lethargy and edema.
  • Dry symptoms act like dryness. They are dry and brittle. Dry symptoms include constipation, dry mucus membranes and dry skin.
  • Fire symptoms act like fire. They are very hot, intense and dry. Fire symptoms include high fever, acute infection and any intense heat sign.
  • Summer heat symptoms are like the heat of midsummer. Summer heat symptoms include heat exhaustion and digestive upset related to heat exhaustion.

Other Causes of Disease

The third type of causative factor of disease is called other, neither internal nor external causes. These include genetic weakness (a weak constitution), overexertion, excessive sexual activity (which depletes the jing), poor diet, trauma, parasites, poisons and the improper treatment of a condition.


Symptom Patterns and Cancer

According to TCM, cancer can develop from any of the three primary causes of disease. These primary causes produce a variety of symptom patterns. Cancer patients commonly exhibit one or more of four broad categories of patterns :
  • Phlegm
  • Toxins
  • qi and blood vacuity
  • qi and blood stagnation
Patterns Associated with Cancer in General

Symptom Patterns Associated with Selected Cancers

Categories and Actions of Chinese Herbs


Traditional Herbal Treatment of Cancer

It relies heavily on herbs from two categories of action :
  • Herbs that supplement
  • Herbs that clear heat
Their functions, in Chinese, is fu zheng qu xie, which literally means to "support the correct and eliminate the pathogen." This strategy attempts to strengthen the patient (and his or her immune system) while concurrently attacking the cancer with herbs that clear heat. Herbs that "reduce accumulations" are also used. They include some herbs from the categories that regulate the blood, transform phlegm and rectify the qi. These herbs are used to "soften the accumulation of hard masses" (ruan jian san jie), which may be accumulations of blood, phlegm or qi.


Foundation for Diagnosis in TCM

The foundation for diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine is the eight principles, namely :
  • yin and yang
  • hot and cold
  • replete and vacuous
  • internal and external
The eight principles, along with the concepts of qi, blood, phlegm, toxins and the twelve channels and twelve organs constitute the core of TCM theory. In TCM, diseases are viewed in terms of symptom patterns, which relate a constellation of symptoms with the terms and concepts of TCM theory. A select number of symptom patterns may be common in patients with cancer. Patients may benefit from the use of herbal formulas designed to treat these patterns. If you wish to know more, you can buy the book on Cancer and Natural Medicine directly from the author's web site.

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