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Maryann Gromisch RN Guide

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By: Lynette Summerill

Although Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been practiced for at least 2,000 years, it’s a fairly new concept in western cultures. While the West has been slow to accept the East’s traditional practices, there’s mounting evidence that TCM offers solutions to help treat and manage cancer and its side effects.

TCM medicine is different from Western biomedicine in that it treats the whole body as a microcosm; mind, body and spirit. Generally, westernized medicine treats the body as a sovereign entity that isn’t continually influenced by other forces. These two paradigms have not translated easily. In the West, TCM is generally thought of as complementary medicine that’s gaining wide acceptance when used in conjunction with standard medical treatment.

In recent years, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has responded to the therapeutic potential of complementary medicine by making a significant investment in scientific evaluation to determine the safety and usefulness as part of cancer-related treatments.

“There are many choices people have to make before, during and after their cancer treatment. It is natural to want to fight cancer anyway you can and there are good reasons to choose complementary treatments. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before you try anything new. This will help ensure that nothing gets in the way of your treatment,” says Dr. Jeffery D. White, director of NCI’s Office of Cancer Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.

TCM is comprises four interrelated therapies: Zhong Yao (herbal medicine), Zhen Jiu (acupuncture), Qi Gong (vital energy exercises), and Tui Na (therapeutic massage). These therapies are based on the belief that the vital energy of life, Qi (pronounced chee) circulates through the human body via a system of pathways and as such, promoting natural healing— physically and mentally— is a central tenant.

Mind-body medicines are rooted in the belief that your mind can affect your body. Some examples are meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, yoga, using imagery, and participating in creative outlets, such as art, music or dance.

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