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Uncovering Cancer Symptoms, Causes, and a Care Plan

Cancer symptoms are severe and can impair quality of life. A care plan must be devised to ensure a person’s health at every stage of the disease.

Woman holding the right side of her jaw as she looks to the left 

Ah, the dreaded C-word. Like Harry Potter’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort – also called You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named – cancer is a word that sends a shiver down a person’s spine upon utterance. A possible reason for this is the severity of cancer symptoms, which may include: 

  • Abnormal weight loss 
  • Skin bleeds that turn scaly 
  • Mouth bleeding, pain, sores, and numbness 
  • Swelling or lumps on different parts of the body 
  • Changes in bowel movement or bladder control 

Before identifying a care plan that addresses a person’s specific needs, it’s necessary to understand how the disease develops and if they are predisposed to it. Here are the risk factors of cancer, remedies that can help ease disease symptoms and the side effects of treatment. 

Woman looking behind while sitting and holding the hands of a person who is putting their hands on her shoulders
Old age is a risk factor of acquired cancer mutation.

How Does Cancer Actually Develop? 

All cancer types transpire from the mutation of one or more genes in a cell. Mutation creates an abnormal protein, which provides cells with different information than normal protein. Subsequently, cells will multiply uncontrollably and become cancerous.

There are two types of genetic mutations. These are known as acquired and germline mutations. Acquired mutations are the most common cause of cancer and stem from damage to genes in a particular cell. The cell then divides multiple times, forming a tumour. A few factors that can provoke acquired mutations are: 

  • Age 
  • Tobacco use 
  • Viruses 
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation 

Germline mutations are less common and pass from parent to child during conception. It happens in a sperm or egg cell and is copied into every cell in the body.

Separately, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that cancer arises from internal and external circumstances. Internal circumstances refer to poor organ health and obstruction of blood and qi flow in the body. External circumstances that aggravate cancer are: 

  • Extreme displays of emotion like being overly happy and excited 
  • Overconsumption of grilled, oily and fatty foods 
  • Exposure to toxic substances, poor air quality, and extreme temperatures
Woman holding a fork in her right hand and biting into a tomato while holding a bowl of vegetables in her left
A plant-based diet can lower the risk of cancer recurrence.

The Role of Herbal Ingredients in Alleviating Cancer Symptoms 

The most notable clinical treatment options for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sometimes, a combination of treatments may be required, depending on the type of cancer a person is diagnosed with.

TCM tackles illness holistically. For instance, if a person suffers pain due to cancer, treatment will focus on rectifying its underlying triggers. However, do keep in mind that TCM should only complement remedies prescribed by Western medicine and not be the only treatment used for cancer.  

Prepare the body physically and psychologically  

Cancer treatment is an ordeal, which is why a person should prepare themselves psychologically. One way to do so is to understand therapy’s best and worst outcomes. Speaking to people with cancer or joining a support group can also help. Likewise, being physically active can help a person cope with treatment better, recover faster, and help them feel more in control of their health.  

In addition, the use of herbal ingredients may suppress tumour growth prior to cancer treatment. These include dandelion (pu gong ying, 蒲公英), Andrographis (chuan xin lian, 穿心莲), and Prunella (xia ku cao, 夏枯草).

Good habits are the foundation of successful cancer treatment  

Maintaining good hygiene is fundamental in preventing infection while going through chemotherapy. To accomplish this, a person should: 

  • Wash their hands frequently 
  • Take a shower or bath once daily with warm water and mild soap 
  • Brush their teeth several times a day with a soft toothbrush 

It’s also necessary to avoid cuts, especially when using gardening, cleaning or using sharp objects. If a person does get hurt, they must wash the wound thoroughly, apply an antibiotic cream on the affected area, and cover it with a bandage.   

Herbal ingredients can be used to help maintain a person’s strength and calm the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For instance, nausea and diarrhoea can be relieved with the consumption of astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), ginger (sheng jiang, 生姜), and jujubes (zao, 枣). 

Remission has been achieved, but the fight is not over 

After achieving cancer remission, a person may still experience the late effects of treatment. Therefore, to fend off a recurrence of the disease, it is best to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption lowers the risk of getting the same type of cancer or cancer at the same site. Eating a plant-based diet that comprises of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily is optimal. Moderate amounts of physical activity can reduce anxiety or depression, as well as symptoms like fatigue, nausea, pain or diarrhoea.

TCM plays an integral role in easing the adverse effects of chemotherapy, thus improving a cancer survivor’s quality of life.

It is still possible to experience cancer symptoms long after remission. Ultimately, it depends on how well a person’s body absorbs medication, and their ability to stick to a healthy lifestyle and diet plan. To keep allergic reactions away with alternative remedies, it also is suggested for a person to speak to a licensed TCM practitioner.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Cancer: A TCM Perspective”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Cancer. [online] [Accessed 20 June 2022]
  2. American Society of Clinical Oncology. The Genetics of Cancer. [online] [Accessed 20 June 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. 5 Things You Should Do Before Cancer Treatment. [online] [Accessed 20 June 2022]
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Staying Healthy During Cancer Treatment. [online] [Accessed 20 June 2022]
  5. National Cancer Institute. Life After Cancer Treatment. [online] [Accessed 20 June 2022]

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