Do you have history of dental issues? Do you suffer with constipation? Did you reach puberty at an earlier or later stage than others? These are just some of the precursors to developing breast cancer. Find out why cancer cells form in our body and what treatment strategies we use in Eastern medicine to prevent cancer.
There is no doubt that cancer is a serious physical illness and considered a major burden worldwide today. Although incidences of cancer may be reaching historically high numbers, cancer is not a modern disease. The earliest Chinese medical record on breast cancer was published in 375 during the East Jin dynasty by a famous doctor Hong Ge (281-341). With its long history, there is great depth of knowledge in the pathogenesis, etiology & treatment strategies for cancer in Eastern medicine. Over the years of working in the health field, I have witnessed the paralyzing terror associated with this disease. My hope in writing this article is to bring more insight and understanding of cancer based on Eastern medicine to help scale down the sense of impending doom related to this disease so that we may then take more ownership and control over our health.
Pathogenesis: How does Cancer develop?:
Cancer is not a cause but rather a result. The survival of every cell in our body depends on our circulatory system. When this system is blocked, our body’s ability to nourish the cells and remove metabolic waste is disrupted, resulting in cellular inflammation. Humans have a strong survival instinct and each cell we possess carry the same trait. When its life is threatened, these cells mutate in order to increase its chance of survival. The mutated cells can also migrate to healthier environments and this will result in the metastasis of cancer.
Our immune system, which is one of the major circulatory systems, consists of Natural Killer (NK) Cells that quickly respond to a wide variety of pathological abnormalities. NK cells are best known for its ability to detect and destroy early signs of cancer. However, the ability for the NK Cells to fulfill its function is also dependent on the flow of its circulatory system. If there is a blockage, their productivity also decreases.
Canadian Cancer Statistics show that on average, 75 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer daily. With that in mind, let us narrow down to breast cancer. Our circulatory system is dependent on the flow of Qi that runs through the meridians throughout our body. If the flow of Qi is strong and smooth, our circulatory system will also be strong. There are multiple channels that pass through the breast. The Stomach, Liver, Gall Bladder, Spleen, Pericardium, and Kidney Channel all travel to or through the breast and the Lung Channel starts on the chest area. Blockage in any of the following channels could cause toxic heat to travel to the chest and cause breast cancer. To understand cancer, one must start by identifying the relationship of cancer to where it begins.
Etiology: What causes Cancer?:
So the main question stands. What factors contribute to the blockage of our circulatory system? We are well informed that there are many factors such as carcinogenic food, pollution, infectious agents, radiation, free radicals, etc.. that damage our DNA and obstruct our circulatory system. However, contrary to what the modern medicine thinks, the greatest cause of cancer is the attitude, emotion and thought we hold towards life. The direct impact of our psychic manifested in the physical body. In one research study, a blood sample was taken from those who had suffered long-term stress and analysis of the sample showed low immune capability. Under stressful conditions, our circulatory system shuts down and our body’s ability to detoxify and repair damaged cells reduces drastically.
In Eastern medicine, every emotion is linked to our organ and its corresponding channel. When emotions are not expressed in healthy manner, the corresponding channels become blocked and the circulation flow to and through the breast becomes obstructed.
Although it may not be for all cases, many of the breast cancer patients I’ve come across tend to be extremely sacrificial and possess motherly nurturing qualities to fault. They tend to put their needs and want aside to serve their family and friends and much of their energy is spent over-thinking and worrying for others. There is no self-care. They have difficulty sharing their struggles with others in fear of being a burden and because they do not ask, no help is available when they are in need. As a result, they are often left with resentment and internalized anger. If this hits a cord with you, it is not that you are doomed to develop breast cancer but perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to examine and reflect on your life. The second greatest commandment from the Bible says to love your neighbour as yourself. Love for your friends and family should be an overflow so that you do not run dry.
Treatment Strategy: How can we treat Cancer?:
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) understands that there are two factors in cancer prevention. First, balance the body to make sure nothing is hindering the circulatory system so that breast cancer does not begin to grow in the first place. Second, if the individual already has breast cancer, prevent recurrence by unblocking the energy channel(s) that caused the cancer and balance the body. Depending on certain locations of the cancer on the breast and by examining other signs and symptoms that correspond to each channel, TCM knowledge can determine which channels are obstructed and which are responsible for sending toxic heat to the breast.
TCM based treatments are often seen as complimentary treatments to help reduce adverse reaction to modern treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy but this should not be the case. TCM is a comprehensive treatment that will satisfy what modern medicine may fail to take into consideration. My goal is not to go against Western cancer treatments but to fully address the underlying causes and symptoms so that prevention of the disease is not compromised.
Whatever modalities you decide to incorporate into your treatment program, the following four conditions have to be satisfied to increase the chance of true prevention of cancer:
- Unblock circulatory system to enhance immune response
- Detoxify the body through the way of 4 orifices: Defecation, Urination, Purging and Perspiration
- Clear toxic heat from original source
- Clear fire at cancer site
Using treatment modalities such as acupuncture, herbal therapy, bleeding, medicated diet, and counselling, the underlying causes and symptoms of breast cancer can be addressed. The focus of the treatment should always be placed on prevention by understanding how psyche and lifestyles impact women’s overall health; Not simply targeting symptoms that are visible to the eyes but addressing the root of the disease.
Hyo Joo Esther Yoo, BMSc, RTCMP, RAc
Director of Complete Balance
Registered TCM Practitioner & Acupuncturist
Esther Yoo (R.TCMP, R.Ac) is the owner and senior acupuncturist of Complete Balance. She has practiced in the clinical field for over 10 years and trained directly under various world-renowned doctors including Dr. Zhu of Zhu’s scalp acupuncture, Dr. Young of Tung acupuncture and Dr. Tan of the Balance method. She specializes in working with neurological conditions.