The next step in cancer recovery?



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(CNN) – Karen Kwai-Ching Li, known as KC, lives in fear of her osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, almost 28 years ago.

She was diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 10, but medication missed in two months resulted in the spread of her tumors, leading to an amputation of her leg. After surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy, she went into remission.

Using her prosthetic leg to get around, she continues to consult Dr. Godfrey Chan, a pediatric oncologist at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, to monitor her recovery and ensure that the cancer does not return.

"My condition has been quite stable," she said.

To go through his treatment and the range of side effects of chemotherapy, KC turned to an apparently contrasting practice: traditional Chinese medicine.

Every time she did chemo, her body seemed weak, she said. Friends and family have recommended plant root ginseng, whose benefits are supposed to include increasing energy, with recent studies supporting this claim.

When her family prepared ginseng for her to drink, she felt "more energized and regained some strength," she explained, prompting her to use it after each chemotherapy session.

But she accepted with the blessing of Chan – because Chan is not her typical oncologist. Although Chan practices modern Western medicine, his father was a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. After a childhood surrounded by herbs and remedies, he is gathering the two to explore the clinical value of herbal medicine.

His family history gives him an advantage, helping him overcome a medical division for the benefit of patients like KC, particularly in the cultural cauldron of Hong Kong.

Advantages and complications

"It's like a treasure mine," Chan said. "We already have a lot of information from history that we know that some of these formulas work [and] some of these formulas do not work. "

By exploring the active ingredients of thousands of items used in Chinese medicine, Chan believes, he could find treatment combinations to help patients heal faster.

Powdered herbs fill her laboratory at the University of Hong Kong where her staff carefully measures and tests the properties of the ingredients in jars and how they react with chemicals and human cells.

"We look at traditional Chinese medicine in a more holistic way," he said.

But such a merger requires due diligence to ensure that herbs supplement, rather than confuse or undermine, any modern treatment – particularly with something as sensitive as the treatment of cancer.

"We have to be very careful, because besides advantages, we can also deal with complications," Chan said.

One example, he explained, is lingzhi, a Chinese mushroom taken by many of its cancer patients, with guidance and supervision. They believe which can improve immune function. However, for patients with cancer of the immune system, such as leukemia, the use of this herb may help the cancer to proliferate. Here, "it's probably not wise," he said.

For KC, the outcome of two therapies was better than one, she said, and she believes that "integrating two therapies will be a future trend in Hong Kong" and more globally.

Investment in the future

Chan is also trying to provide evidence for the combination of Eastern and Western medicine because, according to him, people are already doing this without knowing the real benefits – or possible harm.

In the 1990s, he said, a study conducted by him revealed that nearly half of his patients were taking Chinese medicine in combination with cancer treatment. It fueled his desire to be able to inform them.

"Some of them actually discussed [using both] with me, "he said. But most of them, they do not. They did not bother to tell me. "

Since then, the government has provided resources and resources for further research into Chinese herbs, he said, building hospitals and clinics for Hong Kong University medical school and ensuring more quality control.

"I think there will be more chances of integration in the future," Chan said.

Modern directed versus holistic historical treatment

What is now known as Chinese medicine has been practiced for 3,000 years or more, explained Lao Li Xing, director of the Chinese medical school at the University of Hong Kong.

Lao trains the next generation of practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and believes that the old practice can fill in the gaps and overcome some of the limitations of Western medicine such as cancer and the side effects of treatment.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are crucial, but often have troublesome side effects, he told CNN at his clinic, where a large wall displays hundreds of drawers, each with a single herb or ingredient.

"Insomnia, nausea, vomiting, sometimes they have dry mouth radiotherapy," he said. "Chinese medicine really can play a bigger role in helping your quality of life."

The traditional practice itself has four stages of diagnosis: observation, language analysis, listening to a patient's thoughts and analyzing his pulse, Lao said.

"Personal experience is very important. We feel the pulse, we look at the language and we make a decision individually," he said, using the analogy of a process to describe the experience as going to a tailor instead of a shop.

But "both Western medicine and Chinese medicine together" will receive patient back to good health, he said.

Qihe Xu, co-director of the King's Center for Integrative Chinese Medicine in the UK, agrees.

"The value of Chinese medicine lies in its different means of diagnosis and intervention, emphasizing nutrition, preventing disease, defending health and disease capacity and well-being oriented towards the functions of a person as a whole," he wrote in an e-mail.

"Often, Chinese medicine offers alternative solutions where conventional medicine fails, so integrating the wisdom and approaches of conventional and conventional medicine represents a shortcut to meeting many unmet medical needs," he said.

Xu gave the example of Professor Tommy Yung-Chi Cheng's work at Yale University, whose 2012 study found that four herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,800 years to treat gastrointestinal problems were effective in "alleviating side effects, but also increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy, "he said.

"More research in this area promises to turn tomorrow's drug."

& # 39; Conditioning the body & # 39;

Cheung Yiu-kai, 66, has recently been treated for liver cancer using a combination of surgery and electrotherapy – where electrical currents are applied to tumors – at Queen Mary Hospital to remove a number of tumors.

After its western treatment, he sought help from the Lao team at the Chinese School of Medicine to restore his overall health.

Cheung explained that while a Western physician investigates what is happening inside his body, a practitioner of Chinese medicine conditions the body as a whole, unable to see specifically what is causing a problem – highlighting the need for a combination and not just Chinese medicines.

Now, "My body feels good," he said. "Conditioning the body is very good."

While the partnership of the old and the new is in its infancy, Chan and Lao believe that matching fits the way medicine and health are going.

In 2019, the World Health Organization added Traditional Chinese Medicine in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a global compendium of health identifying trends and health statistics and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions.

The previous year, the Chinese government demanded that local governments launch traditional Chinese medicine institutions in all medical centers, increasing funding for their development and expanding the scale of education.

A series of studies have proven the potential benefits of acupuncture in treating migraines, allergies and pain.

Chan believes his research is further validating the trend, aided by its prime location in Hong Kong, "a city that can fuse the western and eastern culture," he said. "This is our main force in the fusion of information not only in culture, but also in applied science."

Western doctors and practitioners of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong can together demonstrate that this is the best system for patients, Lao believes, resulting in more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

"This can be the model for the whole world."

The-CNN-Wire ™ and © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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