Chinese Medicine and Oncology

Dr. Di Giulio has been a compassionate and effective partner in managing the side-effects of my cancer treatments, particularly the chronic pain and numbness of neuropathy. Her treatments have significantly lessened my pain and the recovery time from acute episodes has been dramatically reduced. Ever since I was referred to her for pain management during chemotherapy, she has managed every complication and injury. I’m forever grateful for her skill, compassion, and peace-filled collaboration. Dr. Di Giulio’s care is key to a better quality of life for me.
— Diane B.

IntegratIVE Oncology

A cancer diagnosis leads individuals to seek all forms of healing. Studies show that more than half of cancer patients utilize complementary forms of care, mainly to improve quality of life during allopathic treatments. The range of modalities may include anything from the more esoteric practices like guided imagery or Reiki and therapeutic massage, to the more familiar and accepted forms of healthcare, like nutritional or dietary advice, naturopathic medicine, and of course, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). 

Within the field of oncology is an evolving medical trend toward the practice of integrative oncology (IO). The goal of IO is to empower the patient through the cancer experience. This discipline works in conjunction with Western medicine protocols such as chemotherapy and radiation, but the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s important to distinguish alternative and complementary forms of treatment. The former is defined by an individual who chooses a nontraditional form of oncological care; perhaps taking herbal medicine, changing one’s lifestyle and diet, and focusing on detoxifying his or her body to eradicate the cancer, in lieu of Western medicine.

The latter, complementary medicine, is always used in alongside standard cancer treatments and it is this integration that yields the practice of IO. As a result, leading cancer institutions have established IO centers that provide a myriad of therapies to better support cancer patients. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Mayo Clinic, among many highly renowned hospitals, offer cancer patients complementary therapies, including acupuncture.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Cancer

What is cancer {liu} in Chinese medicine?

There are extensive diagnostic patterns that guide a TCM pattern diagnosis with respect to cancer. The most approachable response to begin to understand this dynamic encompasses two aspects. First, an accumulation of qi and blood causes stagnation {tumor}; and second, this energetic obstruction may lead to acute or chronic disease, like cancer. This manifestation can result from long-term or chronic weakness, or by way of systemic micro-inflammation. In Chinese medicine, when this occurs and if left untreated, the physical body signals disharmony or imbalance.

One of the most common questions asked of a TCM practitioner specializing in oncology is, “What can Chinese medicine do for patients with cancer?” The answer can be very specific, and quite complex. Skilled clinicians will utilize a variety of techniques that alleviate the most common physical ailments that occur alongside conventional care, including:

- Nausea and vomiting
- Neutropenia (low white blood cells)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Mouth sores, dryness, taste changes
- Fatigue
- Pain syndromes
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Insomnia
- Sweating
- Ascites/swelling
- Headache
- Emotional challenges 

There are an increasing number of research studies that exhibit acupuncture successfully treating a myriad of physical syndromes associated with cancer. Refer to National Institute of Health or PubMed for hundreds of reports. 

However, it is crucial to emphasize the depth of TCM oncology and how it safely and effectively integrates with allopathic care, in its ability to support the individual’s entire well-being and for optimal outcomes. 

This begins in the practice of TCM with the very true, deep concept of prevention.

The prevention of illness is not discussed or explored enough in the larger, traditional medical world, but it is honored and emphasized in Chinese medical practices. Prevention is even more crucial in the context of oncology. When a person diagnosed with cancer seeks acupuncture to address side effects due to standard treatment protocols, the skilled TCM provider does not merely treat the nausea or vomiting, for example, but utilizes the entire Chinese medical system to strengthen the patient’s underlying constitution.

Areas of physical and emotional pain can and will be treated to lessen discomfort, but cumulative and integrative treatment will optimize healing. This occurs in alignment with allopathic oncology and timed according to chemotherapy or radiation treatments to promote faster recovery and healing. This is essential for prevention and achieving ideal outcomes. 

Once the extensive treatment plan with Western approaches have ceased, then the focus shifts toward restorative care. This encompasses a deep healing of the body, mind and spirit. 

The techniques employed at The Wellness Principle have been carefully refined as a result of extensive research and clinical studies in integrative oncology. The approach is uniquely timed to coordinate and complement allopathic medicine. The application of specific acupuncture points at clearly defined times during Western treatments, as well as moxibustion, Chinese herbal therapy prescription, and nutritional advice are crucial and integral to successful outcomes.  

Chinese medicine oncology is a specialty that few practitioners feel called to practice. The unpredictable, aggressive nature of the disease is constantly challenging and deeply frustrating for the patient, provider, and caregivers, on many levels. The Wellness Principle has been actively dedicated to the study and clinical understanding of cancer, from both a Western and Eastern perspective.

We strive to empower the individual, both in mind and body, through the profound techniques and spirit of traditional Chinese medicine.