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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Chu I Ta on May 18, 2022

How To Take A TCM Approach to Palliative Care

TCM helps support palliative care by reducing the symptoms and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Our experts weigh in on the best natural therapies to improve your quality of life here.

Palliative care min scaled

Palliative care involves caring for a person who is undergoing treatment for a serious or terminally ill condition, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or heart failure.

It helps to reduce the side effects of the illness itself as well as any medications or treatment the patient may have to take to improve their quality of life.

This type of care seeks to make life for the patient as comfortable as possible. It may also help to improve the outcomes of traditional treatments to promote recovery.

In this guide, our expert physicians discuss the important role Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) plays in palliative care.

Why Might Someone Need Palliative Care?

Insomnia, head pain, and night sweats may be side effects that palliative care can help address.

People with cancer and other serious health conditions will likely experience symptoms of varying prevalence and severity. Usually, it relates to the types and stages of the disease and treatment options prescribed by their doctor.

In addition, comorbidities can also have a direct effect on symptom intensity. Palliative care can help reduce some of these symptoms and make your living conditions better.

A few common signs and symptoms of chronic illnesses that palliative care can help with are: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Night sweats 
  • Insomnia
  • Skin changes 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Bowel or bladder issues 
  • Pain that doesn’t go away 
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising 
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

How Does It Work?

The goal of palliative care is to improve a patient’s quality of life. It may be done in conjunction with medical care, but it is not really “treatment” focused.

Palliative care can be performed in a hospital, nursing home, outpatient care clinic, or right at home. A palliative care team may include palliative care specialists, doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and personal trainers.

The goal is to provide emotional, physical, and social support to those with a serious health condition.

How To Use TCM During Palliative Care

TCM can be considered to improve a person’s quality of life. For people who have malignant tumors, the treatment options proposed will serve to improve the efficacy of clinical therapy whilst suppressing its side effects.

According to Registered TCM Physician Chu I Ta, “People who undergo surgery to remove a gastrointestinal tumor will experience issues like epigastric distention, stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, as well as intractable hiccups.”

Acupressure

The use of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy on acupoints like Zu San Li (ST36), Tian Shu (ST25), Zhong Wan (CV12), Qi Hai (CV6), and Guan Yuan (CV4) can be helpful.

Physician Chu adds, “People with cervical cancer who underwent extensive hysterectomy and pelvic node dissection procedures can experience urination paralysis and urine retention problems. Thus, acupuncture treatment on San Yin Jiao (SP6), Yin Ling Quan (SP9), Zu San Li (ST36), Qi Hai (CV6), Guan Yuan (CV4), and Zhong Ji (CV3) can help relieve these symptoms.” 

Herbal remedies

“A nasal feeding of Chinese medicine that reduces bloating, regulates Qi (vital energy), and strengthens the Spleen can also be introduced to promote the recovery of gastrointestinal functions,” explained Physician Chu.

A multi-grain meal that contains flaxseeds, red sage (Dan Shen), and Panax notoginseng (Tian Qi) may also be consumed to boost vitality.

For people with incurable, advanced-stage cancer or elderly people with poor body constitutions, TCM treatment can be useful for calming clinical symptoms and extending their lifespan. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, palliative care can potentially increase a person’s chances of achieving health remission. Do speak to a TCM practitioner if you wish to consider using acupuncture and herbal medication to support disease treatment.

References

  1. National Institute on Aging. What Are Palliative Care and Hospice Care? 
  2. US National Library of Medicine. 2020. Palliative Care and the Management of Common Distressing Symptoms in Advanced Cancer: Pain, Breathlessness, Nausea and Vomiting, and Fatigue
  3. The American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Cancer.
  4. The American Cancer Society. Facts About Cancer Pain.
  5. Better Health Channel. Cancer pain management
  6. CANCER RESEARCH UK. Palliative treatment

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