Articles

Breast Cancer

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Breast Cancer

Introduction

Breast cancer is among the most frequently encountered malignant cancers in clinical practice, and its occurrence rate is growing. At present, TCM treatment for breast cancer uses acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to regulate the endocrine system and immune functions. In TCM literature, breast cancer has been called ru yan, ru shi yong, ru pi, ru fa, and ru he.

Etiology/Pathogenesis

Traditional Chinese medicine attributes breast cancer to one of the following five pathogenic conditions: 1) insufficiency of vital-qi, which progresses to cause both qi and blood deficiencies; 2) emotional injuries caused by worries, troubled thoughts, melancholy, and anger; 3) blood stasis originated from accumulation of pathogenic factors, and phlegm stagnation as a result of over-consumption of yin fluids; 4) liver and kidney deficiencies, resulting in under-nourished Chong and Ren Channels; and 5) stomach and spleen function failures, causing phlegm stagnation, which, left unattended for prolonged periods of time, leads to blockage of channels and collaterals. (1) , (2)

Primary Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Zi Shan Chun

Ingredient: Zi Shan

Clinical Application:
One study treated 25 cases of advanced or recurrent mammary cancer with Zi Shan Chun in combination with chemotherapy. The cases were randomly divided into two groups: Group A was treated with Zi Shan Chun in combination with cis-diamine-dichloride-platinum (DDP) and VP16-213, and Group B was treated with Zi Shan Chun in combination with pyrano-adriamycin. The results: of the 10 case that were being treated for the first time, 3 entered complete remission, 4 entered partial remission, with a total effective rate of 70.0%; of the remaining 15 cases, which were receiving treatment for recurrent mammary cancer, 6 entered partial remission, with a total effective rate of 40.0%. Overall, the two groups had similar therapeutic results, except that Group B had a relatively moderate inhibition on bone marrow and digestive adverse effects. (3) Another study treated 17 cases of recurrent, metastatic, and platinum-resistant mammary cancer with Zi Shan Chun, and reported that of the 14 cases on which a therapeutic effect could be assessed, 43% entered complete remission, and the remaining 57% entered partial remission, with a total effective rate 100%. (4)

One study treated 22 cases of breast cancer with Zi Sha Chun, 175 mg/m2 (170.9-210.8 mg/m2). One unit of treatment consisted of 21 days, with the number of administrations ranging from 1 to 4 (the median was 3). The short-term results were as follows: 3 cases had a safe remission, and 11 cases had a partial remission, with a total effective rate of 63.6% (14/22). The patients who had responded to the treatment continued to show improvement, and their remission periods lasted from 2-7 months (the medium was 3.5 months). Given that chemotherapy has as many side effects as it does (decrease in white blood cell (96.2%), hair loss (100%) and muscular pain (84.9%)), Zi Sha Chun is considered a viable alternative for treating breast cancer with tolerable side effects. (5)

Jiang, et al. used Zi Sha Chun to treat 17 cases of recurring, metastatic, platinum-resistant breast cancers. The results showed that of the 14 assessable cases, 43% entered complete remission, and the remaining 57% entered partial remission, with a total effective rate of 100%. Based on these results, Zi Sha Chun was considered a safe and effective treatment for breast cancer. (6)

Other Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Ru Xiang, Chan Su, Ban Xia, Xue Ke, Bing Pian, and Da Huang

Jia, et al. treated 103 cases of mammary diseases (78 cases of mammary gland lobule proliferation, 11 cases of fibroma, 11 cases of mastadenitis, and 3 cases of breast cancer) with an external medication. The application was made from Ru Xiang, Chan Su, Ban Xia, Xue Ke, Bing Pian, and Da Huang. The herbs were ground into powder and made into a paste using sesame oil as the medium. One unit of treatment called for applying the paste five times over a 15-day period. The results: 88 cases significantly improved, 11 cases improved, 4 cases did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 97.8%. (7)

Anti-Cancer pain-relieving formula

Based on TCM's principle of treating advanced (stage IV) breast cancer by activating the blood to resolve stasis, softening hard lumps and dispelling nodes, and clearing away heart and toxic substances, Zhou, et al. used an anti-cancer pain-relieving formula both internally and externally to treat advanced chemotherapy-resistant breast cancer that had failed to respond to endocrine treatments, and reported a total effective rate of 67%. The internal-external duo approach to treating advanced breast cancer has these advantages: 1) it is an over-all treatment and a local treatment at the same time; 2) it not only shrinks the tumor, it also kills pain and fights infection; and 3) it treats cancer without impairing the body's otherwise normal functions. Generally speaking, by promoting blood circulation and resolving blood stasis, blood viscosity can be reduced and hypercoagulability improved, making it possible for cancer-fighting medication to overcome the barriers of cancerous tissues and exerts its pharmacological actions. (8)

Pu Gong Ying, Chai Hu, Bai Shao, Dang Gui, Fu Ling, Bai Zhu, Bai Hua She She Cao, Ban Zhi Lian, Ji Xue Teng, Hong Hua, Gan Cao, processed Zhi Zi, and Yin Yang Huo

In treating 10 cases of mamary tumor, Wang used a formula consisting of the following herbs: Pu Gong Ying (Dandelion), Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Dang Gui (Dang Gui), Fu Ling (Hoelen), Bai Zhu (Atractylodes), Bai Hua She She Cao (Oldenlandia), Ban Zhi Lian (Barbat Skullcap), Ji Xue Teng (Milettia), Hong Hua (Carthamus), Gan Cao (Licorice), processed Zhi Zi (Gardenia), and Yin Yang Huo (Epimedium). Modifications were made to render the treatment better suited for individual patients' conditions, and one unit of treatment lasted 30 days (one dose daily). The results: 6 cases significantly improved, 2 cases improved, and the remaining 2 cases did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 80%. (9)

Dang Shen, Qin Jiao, Jin Yin Hua, Huang Qi, Da Qing Ye, Dan Shen, Yan Hu Suo, Fu Ling, Tao Ren, and Fang Ji

Wei, et al. treated 68 cases of post-mammary cancer surgery limb swelling with a formula consisting of the following herbs: Dang Shen (Salvia), Qin Jiao (Gentian Root), Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera Flower), Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Da Qing Ye (Isatis Leaf), Dan Shen (Salvia), Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Tuber), Fu Ling (Hoelen), Tao Ren (Persica), and Fang Ji (Stephania). One daily dose of the formula was divided into two parts for morning and evening administrations, and one unit of treatment consisted of 7 consecutive days. The results: 42 cases significantly improved, 24 cases improved, 2 cases did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 97.05%. (10)

Other Options

Using herbs known for their actions of invigorating qi and blood, nourishing yin, dissolving stasis, and removing toxicity, Zhuo devised a formula to treatment for 36 breast cancer patients who have undergone surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. The results: 22 patients significantly improved, 12 patients improved, and 2 patients did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 94.4%. (11)

Future Outlook

In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine has made long strides in advancing breast cancer research. Looking ahead, the next challenge facing TCM is to incorporate modern medical technologies and means into its practice, which has always rightly advocated shoring up the body's own defense by nourishing vital qi, strengthening resistance, and keeping pathogenic factors at bay, so that its advantages in treating breast cancer will have a chance to truly shine.

Acupunture & Acupressure

Wang used acupuncture to treat pain in late stages of mammary cancer. After surgery, the patients suffered pain that migrated subcutaneously all over the body, resulting in frequent (occurring every 15-30 minutes) splitting headaches, and waist pain that made it difficult for the patients to move and sleepless nights. The acupuncture treatment treated the following acupoints: Bai Hui (Du 20), Tai Yang (Extra 2), Feng Chi (GB 20), Shen Shu (UB 23), Zhi Shi (UB 52), Wei Zhong (UB 40), Tai Xi (K 3), etc. The following needle stimulation techniques were employed: 1) lifting and tonification method for Bai Hui, 2) reduction method for Tai Yang and Feng Chi, 3) tonification method for Shen Shu, Zhi Shi, and Tai Xi, and 4) the uniform reinforcing-reducing method for Wei Zhong. After three needling sessions, nighttime headache incidences were reduced from more than 20 to 5, allowing short bouts of sleep. (12)

References

  1. Zhou Wei Shun, et al. Journal of Zhejiang College of TCM. 1995;19(4):3.
  2. Zhang Pei Qiu. China Journal of TCM Information. 1996;3(3):27-28.
  3. Bai Hua, et al. China Journal of Clinical Research on Tumor. 1999;26(9):670-672.
  4. Jiang Jing Shan, et al. Journal of Applied Oncology. 1999;13(1):65-66.
  5. Jiang Ze Fei, et al. China Journal of Tumor. 1997;19(6):445-447.
  6. Jiang Jing Shan, et al. Journal of Applied Oncology. 1999;13(1):65-66.
  7. Jia Meng Hui, et al. Shaanxi Journal of TCM. 1998;19(2):59.
  8. Zhou Hong, et al. Journal of Applied Oncology. 1998;12(1):59-60.
  9. Wang Jun Fei. Zhejiang Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1998;33(6):249.
  10. Wei Kai Jian, et al. Journal of Applied TCM. 1999;15(5):20-21.
  11. Zhuo Bin. Journal of Hunan College of TCM. 1995;15(2):23-24.
  12. Wang Hui Lan. Beijing Journal of TCM. 1995;(3):61-62.