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How TCM Can Complement Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer treatment can be challenging to endure. Here is how TCM remedies can help support treatment and improve outcomes.

Asian daughter with mother on wheelchair.

Cervical cancer is commonly found in women. Most cases of cervical cancer are attributed to infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Thankfully, with the availability of the vaccine against HPV, the incidence of cervical cancer is expected to decrease in the coming decades.

Screening tests for cervical cancer results in better prognosis thanks to early detection. However, for those who have to go through the treatment, it is an ordeal for their body. Thankfully, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been proven to be effective in improving cancer treatment outcomes. It may enhance the body’s immunity, prolong survival and improve quality of life and reduce therapy’s adverse effects. 

We spoke to Mrs Tai about the beneficial effects of TCM in treating cervical cancer. At 33, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Though she managed to get rid of the tumour, the treatment left her drained and bedridden for months.

Unfortunately, two years later, her cancer recurred. This time, her doctor advised her to consult a TCM practitioner to support her treatment. She has been cancer free for the last six months and feels TCM helped her body withstand the therapy, the second time around.

Cervical Cancer from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

A TCM practitioner diagnoses a patient.
Consult with a doctor and professional TCM physician before taking any herbal remedies.

Real Medical Chief TCM Physician Chu I Ta explains that the main symptoms of cervical cancer are irregular vaginal bleeding, excess vaginal discharge, frequent and painful urination, and chronic lower abdomen and back pain. “The ancient Chinese Medicine texts have classified the symptoms under metrorrhagia (uterine bleeding) (ben lou, 崩漏), leukorrhea (vaginal discharge) (dai xia, 带下), and abdominal mass (zheng jia, 症瘕), explains Physician Chu.

“I had a demanding job and was constantly on the move. My life of thrown off balance when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer,” recounts Mrs Tai. According to TCM, cervical cancer results from extreme emotional damage, Congenital Deficiency in the Chong Mai (冲脉, Thoroughfare vessel) and Ren Mai (任脉, Conception vessel), or Invasion of “Six Evils” (Dampness)”.

“The pathological process involves the Liver, Spleen and Kidney zang-fu. The Deficiency syndrome is a disorder and imbalance of Chong and Ren Mai syndrome. This can be considered a disorder of genes and hormones. The Excess syndrome is Heat-Damp Stagnation with toxic Blood Stasis syndrome,” explains Physician Chu. 

Treatment of Cervical Cancer

Woman holding ginger and a glass of tea.
Natural remedies can help to improve the effectiveness of cancer therapies and reduce the side effects.

“Going through the surgery and months of treatment that followed was not easy,” reminisces Mrs Tai. In Western medicine, cervical cancer is treated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy based on the extent of the disease, which has many side effects, weakens the body, and kills cancer cells.

TCM can help to support the patient through this trying time. Physician Chu notes that TCM can be used in the following stages to support the journey of a cervical cancer patient: 

  • Recovery phase: “TCM remedies can help before, during, and after- surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapy. The treatment helps to restore and attain a better recovery during or after Western treatment,” says Physician Chu. 
  • Loading phase: TCM therapies can also assist and improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, especially in elderly patients who aren’t able to tolerate two or more chemotherapy drugs at the same time. TCM herbs can also have an anti-cancer outcome with lesser side effects. 
  • Preventive phase: “We often continue the treatment even after the cancer is gone to prevent a cancer relapse”, says Physician Chu. 
  • Maintenance phase: When the tumour does not go away with Western medicine, TCM remedies are given to control the growth of the tumour size and the progression of cancer.  

A trained TCM oncology physician prepares a treatment protocol complementary to Western Medicine treatment. Differentiating the syndromes and stages of disease development is the key to synergising the therapies.

In Mrs Tai’s experience, “Going for a combination of Western and traditional medicine treatments played a major role in being able to tolerate the difficult treatment for a second time and emerging cancer-free yet again”, says Physician Chu, as he encounters many patients who can tolerate Western treatments for cancer better in combination with TCM therapies.

Menopause woman patient risk with ovarian or cervical cancer consulting with doctor who diagnostic
Opting to combine both Western and TCM therapies can bring positive outcomes for the treatment of cervical cancer.

Post-Surgery TCM treatment

Many patients suffer from Qi and Blood Deficiency in Qi after surgery.

  • Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤): For symptoms including a pale complexion, weak host body and limbs, shortness of breath, and sweating easily.
  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (补中益气汤): For patients with a weak Spleen and stomach.  

Radiotherapy with TCM treatment

Radiotherapy is associated with Heat toxicity and Blood Stasis Stagnation.

  • Shao Yao Tang (芍药汤)with Ba Zheng San (八正散加减). For symptoms of dry throat and mouth, a warm body with vexation; dull pain in the lower abdomen, abdominal distension, localised skin rashes, ulcers, and excess vaginal yellow discharge, which may accompany frequent urination, pain and blood in the urine.
  • Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (知柏地黄丸加减): For Qi and Yin Deficiency.

Chemotherapy with TCM treatment

Patients on chemotherapy usually suffer from disorders in the Spleen and stomach due to the toxicity of the medicines. Physician Chu suggests using the following formulas to treat different deficiencies:

  • Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang (旋覆代赭汤) with Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang (橘皮竹茹汤 加减): For Spleen and stomach disorders.
  • Ba Zhen Tang, Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang (当归补血汤) or Shi Quan Da Bu Tang (十全大补汤): For Deficiency in Qi and Blood
  • Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (六味地黄丸): For Deficiency in Liver and Kidney Yin.  

Sometimes, enduring the treatment for a disease can be worse than the disease itself, as is the case with cervical cancer. Thankfully, traditional medicine does not fail to support Western therapies and improve outcomes.

References

  1. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2021. Adjunctive Chinese Herbal Medicine Treatment is Associated with an Improved Survival Rate in Patients with Cervical Cancer in Taiwan: A matched Cohort Study. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8721688/ [Accessed on 8 December 2022]
  2. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8483916/ [Accessed on 8 December 2022]
  3. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2019. The potential o Chinese herbal medicines in the treatment of cervical cancer. [online] Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1534735419861693 [Accessed on 8 December 2022]
  4. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2022. Herbal medicines and natural products for genitourinary cancer treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2022/7728739/ [Accessed on 8 December 2022]

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