Traditional Chinese Medicine
This treatment modality is thought to manage symptoms of cancer, side effects from conventional therapies and/or control pain. Traditional Chinese medicine should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does traditional Chinese medicine involve?
Traditional Chinese medicine is a complete medical system that has been in use for thousands of years. It consists of methods to prevent as well as treat illness. The goal of traditional Chinese medicine is to achieve an overall balance within the individual. Qi, the vital energy or life force that flows within a fixed network of twelve invisible pathways or meridians in the body, is the most important concept of Chinese medicine. Wellness is achieved when opposite and complementary forces, called Yin (feminine - cool, moist, nutritive, quiet) and Yang (masculine - warm, dry, energetic, active), are in balance and promote the unobstructed flow of Qi. An imbalance of Qi, Yin and Yang are believed to result in sickness. All treatments aim to balance a person's Qi. Several methods are used to promote, maintain and restore Qi, including herbal remedies for nourishment, acupuncture, moxibustion (heat therapy), diet, massage, meditation and exercises such as qigong and tai chi.
How is Chinese medicine thought to manage specific symptoms of cancer, side effects of conventional therapies and/or control pain?
The individual components of Chinese medicine target different symptoms of disease and side effects of treatment. For example, acupuncture helps to alleviate pain, nausea and vomiting. Qigong and tai chi improve balance and prevent muscle wasting. Ginseng, an herb used in Chinese medicine, is thought to help the body adapt to environmental and psychological stressors, increase overall strength and endurance and promote health and well-being. Massage and meditation can reduce anxiety, increase feelings of relaxation and improve quality of life.
What has been proven about the benefit of traditional Chinese medicine?
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center conducted an extensive human studies literature review of traditional Chinese medicine and found seventy-four human studies applicable to cancer. In these studies, traditional Chinese medicine was generally given in conjunction with conventional therapy and compared to patients receiving conventional therapy alone. Statistically significant outcomes in these studies including increased survival rates, enhanced immune response, reduction in side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy, improved recovery from surgery, alleviation of pain and improved quality of life. For more specific information, please see the fact sheets for each treatment modality.
What is the potential risk or harm of Chinese medicine?
Side effects will vary depending on the treatment used. Please see the fact sheets for each treatment modality.
How much does Chinese medicine cost?
Cost will vary depending on the treatment used. Please see the fact sheets for each treatment modality.
For additional information:
American Association of Oriental Medicine
433 Front Street
Catasauqua, PA 18032
Telephone: (888) 500-7999
Web site: www.aaaomonline.org
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
Telephone: (800) 392-1611
Web site: www.mdanderson.org/departments/CIMER/
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.