Many modern medical cancer specialists and oncology centers are recognizing the value of Oriental medicine in the treatment of side effects from the extremely toxic drugs and treatments that modern medicine uses to treat cancer.
Of necessity, very dangerous drugs are used to suppress cancerous cells, so it is unavoidable that normal tissues and organs will be negatively affected. Experience indicates that many of the unwanted effects of chemotherapy drugs include disturbances to the defensive and metabolic systems of the body.
Acupuncture, moxabustion, tuina, and dietary therapy are often best applied to treat the pain and other symptoms that occur with many malignant diseases as well as from Western medical treatment. By reducing some of the side effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, as well as decreasing nausea and improving appetite, the patient is more easily able to tolerate their treatments. This focus of treatment is known in Chinese medicine as "fu-zhen", or "support the normal" therapy.
The practitioner using fu zhen therapy attempts to reduce the unwanted and very unpleasant symptoms of these toxic treatments as well as to support normal function and physiology. The same tools that are used in the treatment of other types of disease are applied in these cases as well: Acupuncture, dietary therapy, tuina and moxabustion protocols are customized to the individual situation. Every patient responds somewhat differently to chemotherapy drugs, radiation, or particle beam therapy, so the advantage of Oriental medicine is its patient-centered focus.
For example, the same chemotherapy drugs may in one patient drop the level of their white or red blood cells, in another, produce liver inflammation, in a third, a neuropathy or a digestive upset, and in yet another, depression or psychiatric symptoms. Even though the cause is the same, most Asian medical systems train their physicians to look for the way in which the patient develops side effects, which may reflect a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, patients who are of different ages or constitutions, or who have specific dietary needs or enviromental stresses may require differing treatment programs to address their unique characteristics.
Other common side effects of cancer treatments that Chinese medicine can address are fatigue and problems with concentration and mental confusion that patients will term "brain fog" or "chemo brain".
Due to the understandable levels of mental and emotional stress that patients with cancer experience from their disease, the treatments, and the difficulties of navigating the modern medical system, the resulting emotional imbalances can cause many types of distress. Chinese and Tibetan medicine addresses these imbalances with the same methods as previously listed, as well as with meditational and behavioral suggestions to improve mental, spiritual and physical resources and reduce the symptoms of emotional suffering.
When surgery is necessary as part of the treatment program, traditional Oriental medicine can help with restoring function and reducing pain. Once again, the course of recovery from surgery varies greatly between individuals, and the best acupuncture and dietary treatments are those which take these individual characteristics into account.
If you have been diagnosed with a primary or recurrent malignancy, we invite you to call our office for more information on our practice.
L.B. Grotte, M.D., was the first physician in Ohio to be board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbology. He has studied Oriental medicine since 1972 and has practiced Oriental medicine in Cleveland for more than 35 years. Our small practice specializes in creating individualized treatment plans combining Western and Oriental methods. Call us at 440-461-7488 to make an appointment or visit our website for more information.