Cancer is a very interesting topic; even a child would ask me why so many people have cancer. It is a difficult question to answer in a few words. I would like to introduce and explain cancer in a systematic way including the definition, incidents, cause and treatment through: 1. modern conventional medicine (Western medicine); 2. alternative method (Traditional Chinese Medicine).
1) Modern conventional medicine (western medicine)
The following information is based on the American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine.
Cancer is any of a group of diseases in which symptoms are due to the unrestrained growth of cells in one of the body organs or tissues. Most commonly, malignant tumors develop in major organs, such as the lungs, breasts, intestines, skin, stomach, or pancreas, but they may also develop in the nasal sinuses, the testes or ovaries, or the lips or tongue. Cancers may also develop in the blood cell-forming tissues of the bone marrow (leukemia) and in the lymphatic system, muscles, or bones. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for about one fifth of the total (the most common is heart disease).
Cancers are not the only type of abnormal growth, or neoplasm, which occurs in the body. However, a cancer differs from a lipoma in two important ways. As cancer grows, it spreads and infiltrates the tissues around it and may block passageways, destroy nerves, and erode bone. Cells from the cancer may spread via the blood vessels and lymphatic channels to other parts of the body, where these metastasize and form new, satellite tumors that grow independently.
Cancer is a process that has affected humans since prehistoric times and is also common in domestic and farm animals, birds, and fish. Apart from childhood cancers, which may be associated with events during pregnancy, such as exposure to radiation, most cancers are a feature of aging.
The growth of a cancer begins when the oncogenes (genes controlling cell growth and multiplication) in a cell or cells are transformed by agents known as carcinogens.
Once a cell is transformed into a tumor-forming type (malignant transformation), the change in its oncogenes is passed on to all offspring cells. A small group of abnormal cells is thus established, and they divide more rapidly than the normal surrounding cells. Usually the abnormal cells show a lack of differentiation – that is, they no longer perform the specialized task of the cells of their host tissue – and may escape the normal control of hormones and nerves. Thus, they are in effect parasites, contributing to consume nutrients.
Years may pass before the growth of cells becomes large enough to cause symptoms, although the rate of growth varies according to the tissue of origin. Current estimates suggest that some cancers of the lung and breast have been present for more than five years before they cause symptoms. During this period of time, metastasis may be seeded in the liver, lungs, bones, or brain, and in these circumstances, surgical cure is impossible because the cancer has already spread far beyond the primary site of origin.
Chemical and Environmental factors
Alcohol and Dietary factors
Susceptibility to cancer
A person’s susceptibility to cancer is determined by his or her genetic makeup, which is inherited. The triggers that may provoke cancerous changes in susceptible individuals range from sunlight and viruses to alcohol, chemicals in environmental pollutants, tar in tobacco smoke, and dietary factors. Such triggers may interact to cause cancers in the skin or internal organs.
The table below gives a rough estimate of the contribution of various agents or behaviors to the causation of cancers. Smoking is particularly implicated in lung and bladder cancers, alcohol in cancers of the tongue, pharynx, and esophagus. Sexual and reproductive behavior affects the risk of cervical cancer (the more sexual partners a woman has, the higher the risk) and of breast cancer (having children while relatively young protects against this cancer). Note the importance of dietary factors.
Agents – % of all cancers
Natural constituents of food (estimate) – 35
Tobacco – 30
Sexual and reproductive history – 7
Occupational hazards – 4
Alcohol – 3
Food additives – 1
Unknown – 20
The range of symptoms that may be produced by cancers is vast, depending on the site of the growth, the tissue of origin, and the extent of the growth. Symptoms may be a direct feature of the growth (e.g., lumps or skin changes) or derived from obstruction or bleeding into passageways, such as the lung airways, gastrointestinal tract, or urinary tract, or from disruption of the function of a vital organ. Tumors pressing on or disturbing nerve tracts can cause nervous system disorders and pain. Some tumors lead to the overproduction of hormones, with complications and effects far distant from the site of the growth. Unexplained weight loss is a feature of many types of cancer.
Some important warning signals that always warrant investigation by a physician are shown in the table.
Both the means of diagnosing cancer at an early stage (when the chances of cure are highest) and the range of treatments available have improved dramatically in the past decade.
Screening tests (for early breast cancer, cancer of the cervix, and intestinal cancer) have cut mortality from these tumors. For most tumors, however, diagnosis generally occurs after the appearance of symptoms, is based on the physician’s examination of the patient, and is confirmed by microscopic examination of tissue cells obtained by biopsy; cancer cells look different from the normal cells of the host tissue. New scanning and imaging techniques give more information while causing less discomfort to the patient.
There are four main types of tests: cytology tests, imaging techniques, chemical tests, and direct inspection.
Almost half of all cancers today are cured completely, and cure and survival rates for various years after diagnosis continue to improve. For diseases of certain organ systems, the diagnosis of a cancer may actually provide a better outlook than some of the alternative diagnoses. Cure and survival rates and the chances of recurrence do, however, vary markedly according to the organ or tissue affected.
TREATMENT OF CANCER
The treatment of many cancers is still primarily surgical; excision of an early tumor will often give a complete cure. Because there may be small, undetectable metastases at the time of operation, surgery is commonly combined with a radiation therapy and anticancer drugs. The aim of these treatments is to suppress, or arrest, the rate of cell division in any tumor cells left after surgery. Anticancer drugs often have unpleasant side effects because it is sometimes difficult to target specific drugs effectively, and normal cells and tissues may be disrupted along with the tumor cells.
TYPES OF CANCER TEST
These tests reveal the shedding of abnormal cells. One example is the cervical smear test (Pap smear), an investigation in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined microscopically to detect potential or early cancer of the cervix. Another example is the urine cytology test, periodically carried out on those working in manufacturing industries where bladder cancer is a known risk.
These can sometimes reveal early cancerous changes in tissue. A notable example is the special low dose X-ray technique used in mammography to detect early cancer of the breast. Research with ultrasound scanning, which produces images of internal organs, suggests that it may provide a means of screening for cancer of the ovary.
These tests can reveal the presence of substances indicative of cancer – for example, microscopic amounts of blood in the feces and high levels of the enzyme acid phosphatase in the blood.
Direct Inspection of the interior of organs subject to cancer is usually carried out with an endoscope (a tube with a viewing lens), which is passed into the organ to be examined. Examples of this technique are colonoscopy, gastroscopy, cystoscopy, and laparoscopy. These procedures are usually carried out only when clinical suspicion has been aroused.
Cancerphobia is an intense fear of developing cancer, out of proportion to the actual risk, so that the sufferer’s behavior and life style are significantly altered. Instead of paying sensible attention to diet and prevention (such as giving up smoking), the cancerphobe adopts extreme behavior (prolonged washing rituals, avoidance of social contact, bizarre eating habits) typical of obsessive-compulsive behavior. If the person experiences any symptoms (e.g., skin problems, constipation, or difficulty swallowing), he or she is convinced that they are signs of cancer. Psychotherapy may be of benefit.
2) Alternative Method (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
The Cause of Cancer in TCM Theory:
The ultimate reason for the formation of abnormal growth of cells (cancer) is complex and still unknown in modern medicine. According to the principles of TCM theory and the analysis of clinical data, there are internal and external causes. Internally is the emotional trauma. Externally are the 6 external factors such as wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire. I have to explain the old terminology of dampness, heat and fire. They are also caused by living organisms such as viruses, bacteria or chemical factors. The phenomenon of heat and fire is caused by the human’s defense mechanism as well as the climate of different seasons and geographical regions. The extremity of seven emotions may disturb the normal “qi” (vital energy) and blood. When you are angry, the qi will move upward; when you are happy, it moves slowly; when you are sad, it disappears; when you hesitate, it will stagnate; when you have fear, it will go downward; when you are frightened, it is in a mass; when you are cold, it moves inwards; when you feel hot, it leaks; when you are exhausted, it is used up. Basically, qi stagnation can easily lead to blood stagnation. The term “blood” means all the cells with fluid. Quantitative changes can lead to qualitative changes and vice versa. In the human body, the quantity represents the qi and the quality represents the blood. When the internal and external factors meet, the tumor will be formed. For instance, breast cancer is due to emotional changes, such as depression, hesitation and worry. This will block the qi in the channels and collaterals. Osteoma is due to the injury of kidney qi through excessive desires or fear. The “stagnated fire” from kidneys burns up the nutrition of bones and hence forms the tumor which is as hard as a rock and mobile. Besides the internal and external causes, the irregular lifestyle, improper food habits, excessive drinking, lack of nutrition, over nutrition, abnormal sexual lifestyle (such as excessive or lack of sexual activity) can also cause cancer (abnormal growth of cells).
For example, excessive sexual activity can burn out kidney yin; this will cause uprising of liver fire. Lack of normal sexual activity can cause prostate and ovarian cancer.
The Prevention of Cancer “carcinoma”
Malignant tumors are dangerous to human life. Therefore people should be aware of prevention against carcinogenic factors.
Traditional Chinese Medicine theory is one of the great valuable healing techniques. According to all the ancient theories, there are different names for cancer, such as accumulation, stone, yin pimple and yang pimple. My personal viewpoint is an integration of all the techniques with holistic methods; we will achieve holistic results because we cannot isolate the human body and the cancer cells will not stay in one part or one system of the body. In the treatment method, I have to compromise:
1. Proper herbal TCM formula:
There is not one formula for all types of cancer, and the formulas need to be changed according to different types of tumors. For instance, if A and B persons have tumors, they both have swelling but B’s tumor is red in color, which we can see visually. We call A person’s tumor a yin tumor and B person’s tumor a yang tumor. Even though they are in the same location, we have to use two different formulas because yang tumors have a stronger defense mechanism as B person has a stronger immune system. In TCM theory, we say B person is a person with strong qi. In this case, B person is easier to treat than A person. A person’s tumor would be difficult to treat because the tumor has no redness, which is the indication of low immune system. Some of the Chinese herbs can be poisonous and the dosage applied must be very accurate and small. Also, we have to consider the legal situation of different states and provinces. There are some minerals such as “arsenolite”. Between 0.1 – 0.2 g of arsenolite can kill a person, but can be used to treat leukemia. There is an old saying in TCM theory, for any medicine such as stone and metal, once we hit the disease, we have to stop. Generally speaking, according to research from the Chinese scientists in China, when the cancer cells absorb the active ingredients from TCM medicine, the cancer cells would die but it would not damage the normal cells. It is different from chemotherapy that would kill all the cells and the side effect is very powerful.
2. Herbal wrap:
It is a mixture of herbal ingredients. The treatment strategy is also based on yin and yang tumors, as well as which energy channel they belong to or which part of the human body are affected. With an external herbal wrap and internal intake, it will have a stronger effect.
There are 2 kinds of needle manipulation techniques. For example, if we refer to yin tumor and yang tumor, for yin tumor we have to use a reinforcing technique; for yang tumor, we have to use a reducing technique. But it will be effective only if it happens in the superficial area such as the skin surface or the four limbs because of the obstruction in the channel. Once the tumor grows in the organ, it would be difficult and would not be effective with acupuncture treatment.
It can apply to the situation of yang deficiency or qi deficiency in the human body.
5. Ear pellets or herbal seed:
This is for external application for cancer victims. They have to massage those pellets or seeds on the external surface of the ear which is related to the organ. This can also enhance the therapeutic effect of cancer treatment with no side effects because of the theory of self-adjust mechanisms like acupuncture. It is very safe.
6. Qi Gong (Meditation):
This is also very effective. The patient has to cooperate with the doctor and train every day at different times or any time. You also have to find a TCM doctor who really knows Qi Gong, not a “charlatan.” There are some situations when the patient cannot calm down and concentrate on their mind; I would advise them to use a biofeedback machine, which was originally invented by an American who got the idea and learned from a Japanese meditation teacher. That Japanese teacher learned qi gong from a Chinese martial artist.
7. Tui Na Massage:
Massaging with a special herbal formula can alleviate some of the pain of cancer patients, which is also a way to enhance the therapeutic effect, but not an effective way to treat cancer.
The TCM doctor has to collect information of the patient’s diet because certain kinds of food, like BBQ meat and fish, can create heat and toxins according to TCM theory. In modern medicine, the scientists have already found out that BBQ meat can create a chemical substance called nitrosamine which can form cancer cells. Food condiments, additives and dyes contain carcinogenic nitrosamine. In TCM theory, because of the macro approach concept, we use the word “burned food.” Very often, the burned food cannot be eaten, especially if someone has yang tumor.
Certain emotional stages can also cause cancer. Based on TCM theory, if a person is not happy with a marriage, the couple will fight all the time. It can create qi stagnation, and qi stagnation can easily lead to blood stagnation, which is the fundamental cause of cancer in TCM. If someone works in an unhappy or stressful environment, then they have to leave the situation.
10. Emotion Therapy:
Emotion therapy such as positive thinking can also enhance the therapeutic effect of cancer treatment .
Self-help and Treatment
People ask me what to do if they live far away from me. I have some good key advice for you!