This March will mark the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation’s sixth annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. As we continue to learn more about this illness, research suggests that alternative medicine may play an important role in both prevention and treatment. Colorectal cancer is the second largest cancer killer in the U.S., but is highly treatable when found in the early stages.
Most colorectal cancers are caused by tissue growth in the center of the colon or rectum, known as colorectal cancer polyps Adenoma polyps can become colorectal cancer polyps, but early removal may prevent colorectal cancer polyps from developing. Early detection is therefore a vital tool in cancer death prevention. In 2002, Dr. Yang Cai and Dr. Robert Schoen began a study of tongue diagnosis for colorectal cancer. In this study, computerized images of patients’ tongues are analyzed to determine whether or not early indications of colon cancer can be observed.
Tongue diagnosis has been a critical part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Focusing on color, texture, shape and coating, Chinese medicine practitioners can diagnose a variety of illnesses. Cai and Schoen believe colorectal cancer may be among these.
As far back as the 1960s, studies have found a correlation between tongue characteristics and fever, dehydration and assorted internal diseases. In 1987, the Journal of Oncology found among 12,000 patients, significant changes in color, texture and coating between the tongues of those with cancer and those without.
It is wise to be tested after experiencing a colorectal cancer symptom such as a change in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, feelings of unfinished bowel movement, blood in the stool, extreme tiredness, anemia or vomiting. This form of cancer is sometimes called a silent killer because a person may experience no colorectal cancer symptom during the first stages. Only a doctor should determine whether any symptoms are a colorectal cancer symptom, but Chinese medicine is making great strides in recognizing early warning signs and preventing cancer cells from forming.
Chinese medicine can be invaluable after diagnosis as well. In a study published by Cochrane Library in 2006, decoctions of Huangqi compounds (a Chinese anti cancer herbs formula) were found to stimulate immunocompetent cells and decrease chemotherapy side effects. Colorectal cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy often experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, hepatotoxicity, myelosuppression, and immunosuppression, which are all treatable with Chinese cancer herbs.
Researchers of the Cochrane Library study said, “Compared with patients treated by chemotherapy alone, patients treated with chemotherapy and Huangqi decoctions were less likely to experience nausea and vomiting or low white cell counts.”
In a Yale University clinical test in which 17 patients were given a new Chinese herbal formula, all experienced less vomiting, diarrhea and nausea, and tumor growth was halted in 15 patients.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, colorectal cancer will claim 56,290 lives this year. Prevention and early detection are the best tools available to fight this disease. Chinese medicine can play a critical role in these areas of health.
The Spleen is the key organ responsible for gastro-intestinal health. It needs to be moist in order to function well, but deficiency in qi can lead to excessive moisture. This disharmony can be avoided or reversed with a combination of anti cancer herbs, exercise, diet and acupuncture. Chinese medicine practitioners can prescribe a health system that best suits the individual in order to prevent colorectal cancer from developing.
Individuals can take steps to balance their own health as well. Physical activities such as Tai Chi or Qigong aid body cleansing. Nutrition also contributes greatly to balance and cleansing. Studies have found that eating a little ginger with each meal reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. A Pennsylvania State University study found that garlic alters enzymes, which prevents some carcinogens from forming, and can stop their damaging reactions. Two to five raw, crushed garlic cloves are believed to be the most beneficial. Foods to avoid include red meat, hydrogenated oils and barbequed foods.
It is important when dealing with a disease as pervasive as colorectal cancer to take every precaution to detect or prevent before serious harm occurs. Chinese medicine has many preventative and treatment abilities. With the proper tools at our disposal, it is possible to reduce the sizeable impact of this terrible disease.