Recovering from Colorectal Cancer: A Journey of Health and Healing
Published | 5 min read
Treatment of colorectal cancer can affect your health and leave you weak. Learn how to support your treatment with herbal remedies.
Do you know anyone suffering from colorectal cancer? With advances in treatments for colorectal cancer, the prognosis for the disease is improving. Patients can look forward to living long and fruitful lives.
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer in the large intestine, usually in the colon or rectum. Generally, the elderly will face this issue, though it can occur at any age. It starts as small lumps or polyps that form inside the intestine. Over time, these can turn into malignant cancers.
When the tumour is in the polyp stage, it may not produce any symptoms and goes undetected. Hence, doctors recommend that people over 50 years old undergo regular screening tests for colorectal cancer. This is to detect and remove the polyps at an early stage.
Causes of Colorectal Cancer
It’s unknown what the exact cause of colorectal cancer is. However, your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as you grow older. You are at even greater risk if you have a family history of colon cancer, are inactive and don’t exercise regularly. People who are overweight, smoke cigarettes and consume excessive alcohol are also at an increased risk of cancer.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine is the organ of conduction. It transports food and water and excretes the waste as bowel movements. Hence, it should be kept unobstructed to ensure the food is transported and passed on time.
If the Spleen and Stomach malfunction, Damp Heat and toxins get accumulated in the intestines and affect their functioning. “The Heat Toxins can cause abscesses and polyps to develop which eventually transform into colon cancer”, explains Physician Chu I Ta, who has vast experience treating cancer patients.
According to TCM practices, the Large Intestine should be kept unobstructed and purged regularly to ensure its optimal functions. Hence TCM remedies aim to unblock the Intestines, regulate the qi (vital energy), expel Dampness, prevent stasis and remove toxins.
Treatment of Colorectal Cancer
Cancer treatment involves surgery to remove cancer, followed by chemotherapy to prevent cancer recurrence. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe chemotherapy before the surgery to shrink the tumour for easier removal. The surgery aims to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
At times, it may be necessary to remove a portion of your colon along with adjoining structures as required. Chemotherapy is toxic to even normal cells of the body. As a result, the treatment can drain your energy and hamper your body’s balance. Thankfully, TCM remedies can play a supportive role in your cancer journey. They can help to revitalize your health and help you withstand the treatments.
When the body is strong and in the early stages of cancer, TCM remedies can enhance the elimination of cancer cells from surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Herbs like Prunella vulgaris (ha fu chou, 夏枯草), Hedyotis diffusa (bai hua she she cao, 白花蛇舌草), Scutellaria barbata (ban zhi lian, 半枝莲), Cremastrae pseudobulbus (shan ci gu, 山慈菇), Curcuma zedoaria (bai e zhu, 白莪术) can detoxify the body and eliminate pathogenic qi.
Madam Tan was diagnosed with advanced (stage 4) colorectal cancer at 80 years old. The surgery for removing cancer left her very weak. She also had a poor appetite, and could not get out of bed due to a lack of energy. As a result, her doctors advised her against proceeding with chemotherapy.
She consulted TCM Physician Chu, who prescribed tonifying herbs to improve the Spleen and Kidney qi. She was advised to take ginseng, Astragalus (huang qi, 黃芪), Atractylodes macrocephala (bai zhu, 白术), Poria (fu ling, 茯苓), Trametes versicolor (yun zhi, 雲芝), hawthorn (shan zha, 山楂), chicken gizzard membrane, Morinda officinalis (ba ji tian, 巴戟天) and barrenwort (yin yang huo, 淫羊藿) to regain her general strength and improve her appetite.
After 4 weeks of TCM treatment, she regained her appetite, consumed food, slept well, and even walked for short distances. “Ancient herbal remedies helped me feel more energised. My illness no longer confines me,” says Madam Tan. She is now in remission with the help of Western medical treatment and also the supportive care treatment of TCM.
Most of the patients may suffer from the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which reduces their immunity and strength and can hamper the effectiveness of the treatments. Mr Lee was diagnosed with Stage 3b colorectal cancer last year at 62 years old. Even though he tolerated the surgery well, the following chemotherapy gave him severe indigestion and poor appetite.
He had nausea and frequent vomiting as side effects of the medicines he was taking and could not consume his food. As a result, his blood cell counts dropped, and he could not proceed with his chemotherapy. He underwent treatment with Physician Chu for three weeks which helped him stop vomiting and regain his appetite. “Thanks to TCM, I will be able to complete my treatment and hopefully completely recover from the disease”, says Mr Lee.
“Remedies with dried ginger, red dates, Agastache rugosa (huo xiang, 藿香), Ramulus cinnamomi (gui zhi, 桂枝), Atractyloddes macrocephala (bai zhu, 白术), hawthorn (shan zha, 山楂), Bupleuri radix (chai hu, 柴胡), Curcuma aromatic (jiang huang, 姜黄), Citrus aurantium (zhi shi, 枳实), Houpoea officinalis (hou pu, 厚朴) and tangerine peels (chen pi, 陈皮) are tonifying and regulating herbs which can regenerate the balance of Spleen and Liver qi function” recommends Physician Chu.
Physician Chu also offers palliative treatment to his patients with late stages of cancer, when Western medicine couldn’t be of help. He explains that “reinforcing the vital energy and consolidating the constitution helps protect the body and allows the patients to survive longer with colorectal cancer”.
He usually recommends herbs like ginseng, Astralgus (huang qi, 黄芪), Atractylodes macrocephala (bai zhu, 白术) and Trametes versicolor (yun zhi, 雲芝) for such patients. However, he cautions that patients should take cancer treatment under the supervision of a TCM physician. “Physicians will need to customise herbal remedies to each patient depending on the body constitution and deficiencies”, he explains.
Even though going through treatment for colorectal cancer is difficult, the prognosis for the disease has improved considerably. Age-old therapies from the East can support cancer treatment from the West, giving you the best of both worlds.
- Mayo Clinic. Colon cancer.[online] [Accessed on 28 February, 2022]
- UpToDate. 2022. Colorectal cancer: Epidemiology, risk factors, and protective factors. [online] [Accessed on 1 March, 2022]
- The Lancet Oncology. 2012. Feasibility of preoperative chemotherapy for locally advanced, operable colon cancer: the pilot phase of a randomised controlled trial. [online] [Accessed on 1 March, 2022]