Management of Cancer with Chinese Medicine

The Management of Cancer with Chinese Medicine

by Li Peiwen and Cheng Zhiqiang, Du Xiuping.
Translated by Mao Shuzhang/Bao Liling.

Donica Publishing

The creators of the informative and comprehensive The Management of Cancer with Chinese Medicine have risen to the challenge of making an English Language Chinese Medicine “instant classic”. Li Peiwen and his contributors have created a true ego-less book in that it represents decades of the collective experiences of an entire TCM department in one of the most renowned hospitals in China. The writing here is not simple theory and rhetoric but the praxis of doctors working with the most complex of diseases. The Management of Cancer reflects one of the finest examples of the treatment of a disease category and this book is a sign of achievement in TCM itself.

Anyone, TCM practitioner or not, who sometimes might think that TCM can be simplistic should look at The Management of Cancer If any TCM practitioner wants to treat or has patients with cancer then this book is an absolute necessity. (This is definitely not a consumer level book and I would urge any patients to get Sagar’s excellent Restored Harmony instead.) The principal author of The Management of Cancer has for decades been the director of the oncology department of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, probably the best hospital (and well funded) in Mainland China. The 590-page book starts with a 10 page introduction to the history of cancer management in Chinese Medicine and subsequent chapters follow a natural progression from etiology to diagnosis to treatment and then management of integration with Western settings.

After the historical chapter the book divides into 3 sections. The first mainly deals with symptoms resulting from both the cancer and the Western therapies that treat cancer. Each of these chapters is prefaced by a short description of the Western Treatment. For most TCM practitioners this will be very useful reading. The shorter second section covers Qi Gong and diet. The weakest link in the book is this 10-page Qi Gong chapter in a nod to the Qi Gong department and the value of relaxation. The Diet chapter however is much more comprehensive although perhaps greater care could be taken with translating Chinese dietary medicinals into practical Western foods.

The third section deals with a dozen types of cancers along with case studies and case management. While at first glance it seems to be organized as a Zang-fu book, closer reading shows it to be a comprehensive look at both patterns and diseases. There are case studies, clinical observation reports and research studies. Compared to most internal medicine books of this nature, it has much appreciated information about acupuncture.

I often tell my students that in Asia for thousands of years Chinese Medicine or one of its regional variations was the only medicine available. When someone was sick anything and everything might be done to help the patient. So when we say that CM ‘treats everything’ we mean that CM has treated everything. When confronted with a cancer patient who may also be enmeshed in the most sophisticated of Western Treatments, the TCM practitioner may be overwhelmed with the case. A book such as this can show the TCM practitioner what the limitations of TCM are but perhaps more importantly what the possibilities. If the practitioner has more confidence in the level of treatment then that can only can be good when transmitted to the patient. All too often we only offer limited care because of the fear of overreaching and doing something wrong either through our treatments or promises.

Each page of the The Management of Cancer is filled with such new and practical information that I needed to sit down and read it from cover to cover. I appreciate the fact that there is a minimum of space explaining simple functions of the herbs and with a section on the less common herbs. There is a fair amount of information about Western Chemotherapy drugs especially within the numerous case studies. Although it is unclear if this book is a translation of an existing book in China or an originally written book it reads as well as if written by a native English speaker. Translators Mao Shuzhang and Bao Liling should be congratulated for a highly readable volume.

Here are two short excerpts:

Discussion: The formation of tumors is closely associated with Blood stasis. Solid tumors are less sensitive to radiotherapy because they are often poorly oxygenated (hypoxic), the consequence of outgrowing the blood supply. In addition, the chemical substances secreted by tumor cells can result in an increase in sensitivity to exogenous and endogenous blood-clotting factor and cause hypercoagulability of the blood by impairing of the blood by impairing fibrinolysis and platelet aggregation. Under these circumstances, material medica for invigorating the Blood and transforming Blood stasis can supplement radiotherapy treatment by increasing local blood flow, reducing hypoxia, and impeding repair of the cancerous cells damaged in radiotherapy by inhibiting the expression of proteins at the cell surface.

Some drugs used in chemotherapy such as vincristine (Oncovin), vindesine, vinorelbine (Navelbine), cisplatin (cis-disaminodichloroplatinum), doorucric (Adriamycin), mitromycin, and mustine hydrochloride (nitrogen mustard) can give rise to numbness in the extremities and scorching pain in the hands and feet since these drugs can cause neuropathy. Pain due to radiotherapy can occur immediately or many years after treatment and is caused by inflammatory edema of local tissue and mucosa characterized by scorching pain, dryness, bleeding, edema, exudation and ulceration. This pain is often seen in oral, esophageal, nasopharyngeal and bladder cancer. A continuous dull pain often occurs as a result of changes in the fibrous tissue due to radiotherapy and is commonly seen in the treatment of lung cancer.

I would consider The Management of Cancer by Li Peiwen one of the most complete discussions of modern TCM methods in English. This is an astounding compilation of 40 years of experiences in a top oncology department. When people with this much experience imparts information then one had better listen.

Douglas Eisenstark L.Ac. 2004