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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Approximately 180,000 women will be told they have breast cancer this year. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, after skin cancer, and the leading cause of cancer deaths for women 35 to 54. Though early detection is an important component of survival, prevention is a primary goal in the fight against breast cancer.

Oriental medicine provides many resources for prevention. Exercises such as Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga reduce stress, a leading cause of cancer, and alleviate tension. These physical arts also bring the body and mind into balance. Since the 1970s medical Qigong experiments for the treatment of breast cancer have shown the exercise improves quality of life and helps delay the growth and onset of cancer.

Studies have shown that women with breast cysts are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, and that Chinese herbs and acupuncture are effective in resolving breast lumps. According to The Rites of the Zhou Dynasty (1100-400 BCE) Chinese specialists have been treating "swellings and ulcerations" for millennia. A 1996 study showed acupuncture and herbs to be 78.1% effective in eliminating breast lumps, which can reduce risk of developing malignant cysts.

A healthy diet rich in fiber, soy, vegetables and organically raised foods has shown cancer prevention effects. Breast cancer rates in Japanese and Chinese women, whose diets include more fish and less dairy, red meat and fat, are roughly 1/10 that of American women.

Chinese medicine is useful in all stages of cancer to augment the benefits of conventional treatment, to prevent recurrence and metastasis in early stages, and to promote health, improve quality of life and prolong life in advanced stages.

For those who are diagnosed with Breast Cancer and are required to have surgery, acupuncture has the power to reduce nausea and vomiting after major surgery and may work better than the most commonly used medications, according to a study conducted by Duke University researchers.

Breast surgery typically causes post-operative vomiting in 60 to 70 percent of women who undergo it, said Dr. Rong Joo Gan, an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology and head of the research team.

Previous studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is significantly more effective than a post-operative placebo in reducing nausea and vomiting. The recent findings, however, showed the capacity of acupuncture to decrease post-surgical sickness, compared with Zofran, the most commonly used drug for reducing sickness. In addition, women treated with acupuncture reported they experienced much less pain 24 hours after surgery than those who had not received the treatment. "The increasing success of acupuncture in clinical trials might point to its use as a more conventional method of treating pain", Gan said. "The use of acupuncture is clearly not confined to breast surgery. The time is right to be doing more studies to assess critically how to implement Eastern medicine into Western practices," Gan said.

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