Research on Cancer and Chinese Medicine

A few weeks ago I was on a panel at Smith Farm, www.smithcenter.org, to discuss complementary medical approaches to cancer treatment. Because I would be presenting, I reviewed the latest literature on Chinese Medicine and Cancer Treatment. The amount of research on Chinese Medicine as a complementary care modality for people in treatment is impressive. Back in the 80s, there was very little, but there was wonderful training in the principles of Chinese Medicine and its great potential for bringing balance and harmony for the individual.

What I found interesting is that thousands of studies look into acupuncture as a modality to consider supporting patients with reactions to cancer treatment. For decades it has been well established to help with fatigue and nausea from chemotherapy and radiation. But also, the list has grown so that the research includes topics such as:

  • Hot flashes from rapid onset of menopause from Chemotherapy.
  • Insomnia and anxiety
  • Stiffness and joint pain from the use of Aromatase inhibitors in breast cancer patients.
  • For xerostomia, which is when the salivary glands stop functioning after radiation to the throat region. Acupuncture can have a
    positive effect on the functioning of the salivary glands.
  • It can be helpful for one-sided paralysis after brain surgery.
  • It can be helpful for upper limb lymphedema.
  • Quality of Life

These are some of the topics being evaluated. And it is wonderful that researchers are devoted to identifying what modalities work. In truth, I’ve seen people for the majority of the problems listed above. Thankfully, I’ve been able to help them.
As a long-term practitioner, I’m encouraged by the research studies, and as a person who has treated people who have had cancer over the years; there are also some additional thoughts. The person coming in is often referred by their physician for symptoms from treatment. But the question for the practitioner is where did the qi go out of balance.

What I’m tracking is really how their Qi is functioning. Qi is generally translated as the life force, but it is a force that flows through all things. It is the earth, the planets, the sun, the food, and the water. It is everything that is alive and contains the vibrations of life. And it is in us. While Allopathic Medicine delves into the biological and mechanical aspects of living; Chinese Medicine focuses on the electro-magnetic forces that determine life. Both approaches have their place.

As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine I learn to follow the Qi in a person to discover where the place is that needs support to unblock the Qi. Whether using acupuncture, herbs, massage, or Qigong therapy, the practitioner is determining where to work toward unblocking the Qi so that there can be a natural flow of healthy Qi through the body.

When a person has cancer there is an unhealthy accumulation of Qi in the body that becomes the formation of a tumor. The task each practitioner of Chinese Medicine asks is how to get to the process in the person that allowed the stagnancy or accumulation to occur and then to correct that pattern through working with the Qi. The question becomes who is the person and how did their pattern show up.

William Osler, one of the great American Allopathic Physicians, said that it is more important to know what sort of person has a disease, then to know what disease a person has.

Because no 2 people have walked the same path, there has to be different treatments. Each person finds her/his own healing path. Sometimes this requires major life changes. If unblocking Qi rids them of symptoms then I’m happy to help. But at the heart of it the Chinese Medicine practitioner asks whether the person is unblocked and on her/his way toward health.

I know whether one comes for a headache, back pain, reaction to chemotherapy that ultimately, we are discovering how to bring the person back to health. If the openings are there a person can travel toward their expanded sense of self and their healthier self. In the end, all modalities are trying to get to this same place. We all try to help the person to feel whole again.

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