Cancer treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history and remains the most ancient living tradition; the word “tumor” was discovered on 3500-year-old oracle bone inscriptions.1
In most Asian countries, TCM was wildly used in all stages of cancer. Combined with modern medicinal means offer wild beneficial effects for cancer patient, such as improve symptoms, enhance quality of life, prevent recurrence and metastasis, and prolong patients’ survival.
Supporting Role of TCM during Radiochemotherapy
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can damage the patients’ immune system, in TCM theory, Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can damage in qi and blood, essence and fluid, and the function of the five viscera and six bowels.
Common symptoms include fatigue, apocleisis, nausea, vomiting, and leucocyte decline. Local side effects include stigmata, loss of hair, mucosal erosion, ulcer, edema and hemorrhage. During radiotherapy and chemotherapy, TCM treatment can reduce toxic side effects, such as: myelo suppression, gastrointestinal reactions, hepatic or renal impairment, and skin and mucosa radiation injuries.
On the other hand, TCM can improve the clinical efficacy of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, guided by therapeutic principles of tonifying qi and producing blood, strengthening the spleen and stomach, nourishing the liver and kidney, and removing heat from blood and toxic material from the body. TCM combined with chemotherapy has shown a favorable effect in improving efficacy with less adverse reactions.
The therapeutic function of TCM in advanced cancer patients
For advanced cancer patients, such as elderly patients, or in those for whom radiotherapy and chemotherapy are unsuitable, TCM has its advantages. For instance, with slight adverse reactions, TCM can stabilize tumor lesions, improve symptoms, enhance the quality of life, and prolong survival time.
The therapeutic function of TCM in postoperative cancer patients
In the perioperative period and after surgery, TCM can strengthen a patient’s physique, helping to prevent and treat postoperative complications, facilitate postoperative rehabilitation, and regulate immune functions, such as sputum retention after lung cancer surgery, limb swelling in postoperative breast cancer patients, intestinal adhesion related to abdominal surgery, and bile reflux gastritis after gastric cancer surgery.
Prevention and treatment with TCM in precancerous lesions
In view of preventive treatment before disease onset, TCM applied at an early stage can treat precancerous lesions and reduce the incidence of cancer. Furthermore, TCM also plays roles in the perioperative period and rehabilitative stage. In the perioperative period and after surgery, TCM can strengthen a patient’s physique, helping to prevent and treat postoperative complications, facilitate postoperative rehabilitation, and regulate immune functions, such as sputum retention after lung cancer surgery, limb swelling in postoperative breast cancer patients, intestinal adhesion related to abdominal surgery, and bile reflux gastritis after gastric cancer surgery.
In the last 50 years, clinical research summarizing clinical experience has proven that the use of TCM in cancer therapy has decreased toxicity and enhanced the efficacy of radiochemotherapy, prolonged survival in advanced cancer patients, and assisted in the prevention and treatment of recurrence and metastasis.1
1. Liu, J.; Wang, S.; Zhang, Y.; Fan, H. T.; Lin, H. S,. Thoracic cancer 2015, 6, 561-9.