ACUPUNCTURE FOR CANCER
The thought of having cancer can be scary. But what exactly is cancer? And what does it do?
Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer can spread its abnormal cells throughout your body.
Being diagnosed with cancer can be frightening. But understanding what’s going on inside your body can help you be aware of what’s causing your feelings of anxiety. Knowing more about cancer may also help you feel more in control of your disease.
What causes cancer?
Cancer is caused by damage (mutations) in your DNA. Your DNA is like a set of instructions for your cells, telling them how to grow and divide. When a mutation occurs in your DNA, normal cells will repair the mutation or simply die. In cancer, your cells continue living with this mutation. As a result, they grow and divide in chaotic fashion.
Mutations in your DNA can be caused by:
Your own habits.
Certain lifestyle choices are known to cause cancer. Smoking, drinking more than one drink a day (for women) or two drinks a day (for men), being overweight, damage to skin unprotected by sunscreen, and unsafe sexual behaviors can lead to the mutations that cause cancer. You can break these habits to lower your risk of cancer — though some habits are easier to break than others.
The environment around you may contain harmful chemicals that can cause mutations in your genes. Even if you don’t smoke, you might breathe secondhand smoke if you go places where people are smoking or you live with someone who smokes. Chemicals in your home or work environment, such as asbestos and benzene, can also cause cancer.
Your family history.
Some mutations in your DNA can be traced back to your parents. If cancer is common in your family, it’s possible that mutations are being passed from one generation to the next. You might be a candidate for genetic screening to see whether you have mutations that might increase your risk of cancer. Keep in mind that having an inherited genetic mutation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer.
Some chronic health conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, can develop into cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk.
Much is still unknown about cancer. Some people with many risk factors don’t develop cancer, and some people with no apparent risk factors develop cancer nonetheless.
How does cancer grow?
Cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled manner. One malignant cell becomes two, two become four, four become eight, and so on, until a mass of cells (a tumor) is created. The tumor interferes with the normal functioning of healthy tissue and can spread to other parts of your body.
Not all tumors are cancerous, and not all cancers form tumors. For example, leukemia is a cancer that involves blood, bone marrow, the lymphatic system and the spleen but doesn’t form a single mass or tumor.
Cancer invades and destroys normal tissue. It can also produce chemicals that interfere with body functions. For instance, some lung cancers secrete chemicals that alter the levels of calcium in your blood, affecting nerves and muscles and causing weakness and dizziness.
Cancer can also spread (metastasize) and invade healthy tissue in other areas of your body. Cancer can take years to develop. By the time a cancerous mass is detected, it’s likely that 100 million to 1 billion cancer cells are present, and the original cancer cell may have been dividing for five years or more.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a different approach to treating cancer patients compared to modern medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine is to strengthen and build a patient’s Qi (energy) to fight the cancer.
Acupuncture has also proved to be effective in treating cancer patients side effect symptoms from radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
What is the stress response?
Often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, the stress response occurs automatically when you feel threatened. Your pituitary gland, located at the base of your brain, responds to a perceived threat by stepping up its release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which signals other glands to produce additional hormones. When the pituitary sends out a burst of ACTH, it’s like an alarm system going off deep in your brain. This alarm tells your adrenal glands, situated atop your kidneys, to release a flood of stress hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones — including cortisol and adrenaline — focus your concentration, speed your reaction time, and increase your strength and agility.
How stress affects your body
After you’ve fought, fled or otherwise escaped your stressful situation, the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream decline. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal and your digestion and metabolism resume a regular pace. But if stressful situations pile up one after another, your body has no chance to recover. This long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all your body’s processes, increasing your risk of obesity, insomnia, digestive complaints, heart disease and depression.
Digestive system. It’s common to have a stomachache or diarrhea when you’re stressed. This happens because stress hormones slow the release of stomach acid and the emptying of the stomach. The same hormones also stimulate the colon, which speeds the passage of its contents. Chronic stress can also lead to continuously high levels of cortisol. This hormone can increase appetite and cause weight gain.
Immune system. Chronic stress tends to dampen your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other infections. Typically, your immune system responds to infection by releasing several substances that cause inflammation. In response, the adrenal glands produce cortisol, which switches off the immune and inflammatory responses once the infection is cleared. However, prolonged stress keeps your cortisol levels continuously elevated, so your immune system remains suppressed.
In some cases, stress can have the opposite effect, making your immune system overactive. The result is an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, in which your immune system attacks your body’s own cells. Stress can also worsen the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. For example, stress is one of the triggers for the sporadic flare-ups of symptoms in lupus.
Nervous system. If your fight-or-flight response never shuts off, stress hormones produce persistent feelings of anxiety, helplessness and impending doom. Oversensitivity to stress has been linked with severe depression, possibly because depressed people have a harder time adapting to the negative effects of cortisol. The byproducts of cortisol act as sedatives, which contribute to the overall feeling of depression. Excessive amounts of cortisol can cause sleep disturbances, loss of sex drive and loss of appetite.
Cardiovascular system. High levels of cortisol can also raise your heart rate and increase your blood pressure and blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels. These are risk factors for both heart attacks and strokes. Cortisol levels also appear to play a role in the accumulation of abdominal fat, which gives some people an “apple” shape. People with apple body shapes have a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than do people with “pear” body shapes, where weight is more concentrated in the hips.
Other systems. Stress worsens many skin conditions — such as psoriasis, eczema, hives and acne — and can be a trigger for asthma attacks.
Individual reactions to stress
Your reaction to a specific stressor is different from anyone else’s. Some people are naturally laid-back about almost everything, while others react strongly at the slightest hint of stress — and most fall somewhere between those extremes. Genetic variations may partly explain the differences. The genes that control the stress response keep most people on a fairly even keel, only occasionally priming the body for fight or flight. Overactive or underactive stress responses may stem from slight differences in these genes.
Life experiences may increase your sensitivity to stress as well. Strong stress reactions sometimes can be traced to early environmental factors. People who were exposed to extreme stress as children tend to be particularly vulnerable to stress as adults.
Reducing the effects of stress
Stress develops when the demands in your life exceed your ability to cope with them. It follows, then, that you can manage stress by:
Changing your environment so that the demands aren’t so high
Learning how to better cope with the demands in your environment
Here are some helpful techniques:
Look after your body. To handle stress, your body requires a healthy diet and adequate rest. Exercise also helps, by distracting you from stressful events and releasing your nervous energy.
Learn to relax. It’s the polar opposite of the stress response. Deep-breathing exercises may put you in a relaxed state. Follow these steps:
- Inhale through your nose to a count of 10. As you inhale, your upper abdomen should rise — not your chest.
- Exhale slowly and completely, to a count of 10.
- Repeat five to 10 times. Try to do this several times every day, even when you’re not feeling stressed.
If you have persistent trouble relaxing, consider taking up meditation or studying yoga or tai chi, Eastern disciplines said to focus your mind, calm your anxieties and release your physical tension. Therapeutic massage may also loosen taut muscles and calm frazzled nerves. Acupuncture can unblock the energy channel of the body and help the body to relax
Depression is a disorder that affects your thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and physical health. People used to think it was “all in your head” and that if you really tried, you could “pull yourself out of it.” Doctors now know that depression is not a weakness, and you can’t treat it on your own. It’s a medical disorder with a biological or chemical basis.
Sometimes, a stressful life event triggers depression. Other times depression seems to occur spontaneously with no identifiable specific cause. Whatever the cause, depression is much more than grieving or a bout of the blues.
Depression may occur only once in a person’s life. Often, however, it occurs as repeated episodes over a lifetime, with periods free of depression in between. Or it may be a chronic condition, requiring ongoing treatment over a lifetime. The disorder affects more than 18 million Americans of all ages and races.
Until now, modern medicine could offer people with depression only a pill or the prospect of talking it out, sometimes for years. Soon, though, doctors may offer an alternative – the 5,000 year-old Chinese art of Acupuncture.
In a recent University of Arizona study, clinically depressed women received eight weeks of acupuncture, in which practitioners gently pressed needles into specific body points to correct imbalances believed to trigger illness. The results: After getting treatments aimed at relieving depression, about two-thirds were cured of the condition, a rate similar to that achieved with antidepressants and psychotherapy.
(Researchers ruled out the placebo effect by giving one group acupuncture at points believed to be unrelated to depression.)
Although the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine, is preliminary, author John Allen, Ph.D., believes acupuncture eventually may benefit people for whom other treatments fail. Unlike antidepressant drugs, for instance, acupuncture has no side effects. And Allen predicts that it may offer the best way yet to forestall future episodes of depression. That’s a significant worry, since people who’ve suffered one bout of depression have a 50 percent chance of enduring another.
The TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) model of the body is a culturally based philosophy of how the human body works.
The elements of the TCM model of the body are the Fundamental Substances; Qi, Blood, Jing (Essence), Shen (Mind) that nourish and protect the Zang-Fu organs; and the meridians (jing-luo) which connect and unify the body. Every diagnosis is a “Pattern of disharmony” that affects one or more organs (such as “Spleen Qi Deficiency” or “Liver Fire Blazing” or “Invasion of the Stomach by Cold”), and every treatment is centered on correcting the disharmony.
Unlike the Western anatomical model which divides the physical body into parts, the Chinese model is more concerned with function. Thus, the TCM Spleen is not a specific piece of flesh, but an aspect of function related to transformation and transportation within the body, and of the mental functions of thinking and studying. Indeed, the San Jiao or Triple Burner has no anatomical correspondent at all, and is completely a functional entity.
Chinese medicine is a coherent and independent system of thought, it has been developed over two millennia. Based on ancient texts, it is the results of a continuous process of critical thinking, as well as extensive clinical observation and testing. It represents a thorough formulation and reformulation of material by respected clinicians and theoreticians. It is rooted in the philosophy, disease is caused by an unhealthy relationship with nature and that treatment lies in establishing balance with nature, Yin/Yang and five elements.
Traditional Chinese medicine is holistic, based on the idea that no single part of the body can be understood except in its relation to the whole. A symptom, therefore, is not traced back to a cause, but is looked at as a part of a totality. If a person has a symptom, Chinese medicine wants to know how the symptom fits into the patient’s entire bodily pattern. A person who is well, or “in harmony”, has no distressing symptoms and expresses mental, physical, and spiritual balance. When that person is ill, the symptom is only one part of a complete bodily imbalance that can be seen in other aspects of his or her life and behavior. Understanding that overall pattern with the symptom as part of it, is the challenge of Chinese medicine.
People all over the world are using TCM including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.