Chinese medicine for cancer treatment

Cancer is one of the worst modern diseases we face. The number of different types of cancer and the wide range of people getting it is scary. Modern science has developed some treatment options that include radiation and chemotherapies, and these help many patients to survive by pushing their cancers into remission. But the side effects are not nice at all. My mother suffered with her cancer, and the ill effects of these treatments, for five years. She passed away this past Memorial Day, in pain.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a 5,000-year-old practice of using herbal remedies, acupuncture and other modalities to balance the body and prevent or reverse the effects of hundreds of diseases. What many don’t realize is that TCM is effectively used alongside modern cancer treatments to help with the pain and symptoms of those treatments and to improve quality of life. I wish my mother had believed in it so she could have had less pain and overall sickness in her last years.

I am not a specialist in the area of TCM for cancer treatment, but one of my TCM teachers and colleagues, Dr. Robert Chu, is one. He is presently on faculty at Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, teaching students in the doctorate program, and supervising externs at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, California. His personal practice mostly involves using TCM alongside Western Medicine for treatment of cancer patients. Robert and I recently had a discussion about this topic and I wanted to share it with you today.

What is your focus on cancer treatment in your practice?

In the USA, I focus on the side-effects of cancer treatment. That means treating the side-effects of cancer treatment of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. It’s a big list that includes cancer related pain, low white blood cell count, anemia, cancer fatigue, dry mouth from radiation, and the so-called “chemo brain”–which is difficulty concentrating and thinking, memory issues and multi-tasking, amongst other conditions.

What are the different modes of TCM that can effectively help those suffering cancer?

Generally, the best approaches are acupuncture and herbology. The acupuncture can treat the signs and symptoms I’ve mentioned, and the herbs act as “homework” in between visits. I must stress that it is recommended that acupuncture be done at least twice a week for a course of treatment that lasts for five weeks. After that, we can re-evaluate. Herbs, generally, are in pill or capsule form, and are taken daily.

How does a practitioner, like yourself, decide if a patient needs acupuncture or herbs or other?

It depends on the signs and symptoms one is experiencing. Everyone is unique, so we tailor to make a treatment plan for everyone. Some things herbs will be needed to take care of long term, and you’ll have to take them two to three times a day; others, acupuncture can take care of immediately.

Can TCM cure cancer or put it into remission? If so, at what stages?

It’s a combination of things that can put cancer in remission or cure it, and those who have the best chances are typically at early stages, but it depends on the individual. I’ve studied that phenomenon for the past 15 years in the clinic and I can say the immune system is the best cancer-fighting tool we have. But often chemo, radiation and surgery inhibit the immune system. Diet, nutrition, exercise, healthy emotions, less stress, watching what you use in health and beauty products, maintaining a healthy BMI will all lead to improvement, as well as cutting down on packaged foods, GMOs and maintaining a clean living environment.

Can TCM stand alone as a cancer treatment? Or is it best used in conjunction with various modern medical methods?

In the USA, TCM is considered complementary medicine when it comes to cancer. So we work in conjunction with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In China, they treat cancer directly with herbs and acupuncture.

What are some of the best results you have found using TCM for cancer patients?

TCM will give people a better quality of life, a clearer mind and a healthier life without additional medications. Patients will experience more energy, better sleep, better elimination, freedom from nausea, less pain, less reliance on pain medications, better appetite, greater range of motion, reduced anxiety, grow back their hair, restore normal feeling in fingers and toes when they have neuropathy, have more saliva when they suffer from dry mouth, give greater freedom of breathing when they have shortness of breath, or help with pain when they have surgically installed ports.

For some women, they’re thrown into menopause early because of cancer treatment, so we can help normalize and minimize those side effects. Others may get secondary infection such as oral thrush or yeast infections from cancer treatment and we can treat that as well without the need for additional drugs or their side effects.

For some terminal cases, it will give time and a clearer mind the patient so they can set their affairs in order.

If someone has cancer and wants to explore the TCM option for cancer, what is their best approach?

The best thing is for someone to speak to their oncologist who knows acupuncturists that specialize in this field, or find a specialist in this area by contacting the local Acupuncture Board, get a referral from other cancer patients, or do some Internet searching for a practitioner that specializes in this area of Chinese medical oncology.  Currently, I’ve trained numerous interns for Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, at the Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank and other acupuncturists through my continuing education seminars and could recommend quite a few great practitioners nationally. People can feel free to contact me directly at (626) 487-1815 or via email at


Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.