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Managing breast cancer with herbs and acupuncture

HEALTH ADVICE: Dr Tracey-Ann Brown says that herbs and acupuncture may offset some of the side effects during cancer treatments

IN THE care of breast cancer patients, Chinese medicine may offer a few options.

One of two approaches may be taken - either using herbal formulas to reduce cancer tumours in the breast or to offer support using acupuncture as part of an integrative approach to therapy alongside conventional treatments.

An integrative approach combining biomedical treatments is more often than not the course of action.

ACUPUNCTURE
In many cases of breast cancer treatment, some combinations of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy are administered depending on the stage of the cancer. In cases where radiation or chemotherapy is being administered, acupuncture is used to offset some of the side effects during this rigorous course of treatment.

Some side effects may include:
* Nausea & vomiting
* Fatigue
* Loss of appetite
* Diarrhoea
* Weakened immune system

When using acupuncture to assist with these symptoms, acupuncture points are selected along the digestive system meridians which have a strengthening effect to alleviate or minimise these symptoms. The points are gently stimulated by inserting very thin needles which are allowed to stay in place for no more than 15 minutes.

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HERBAL FORMULAS

When using herbal formulas, their main function is to assist in tumour reduction by breaking up stagnation and promoting the smooth flow of qi and blood in the breast and chest.

Several herbs are typically combined to make a formula, using herbs such as:

* Ban Zhi Lian (Herba Scutellariae Barbatae)
* Bai Hua She She Cao (Herba Oldenlandia)
* E Zhu (Rhizoma Curcumae)
* Zhu Ling (Polyporous)
* Qing Dai (Indigo Naturalis)
* Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon)
* Pu Gong Ying (Asian Dandelion)

These herbs have the function of reducing tumours/masses in the upper body, clearing toxicity from the body and breaking up stagnation in various parts of the body. These formulas are administered under the care of a trained herbalist.

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GENERAL NUTRITION

With any cancer patient diet recommendations are always given. The diet plan will vary based on general strength and whether frailty or extreme fatigue is being exhibited. Generally, a diet free of meats and highly processed foods and one high in the following foods is recommended:

* Sprouts: All grain sprouts, especially mung, alfalfa, aduki beans.
* Legumes: All EXCEPT soybean. These include black bean, broad bean, chick peas, red kidney bean, pinto bean.
* Wheat and Barley Grass
* Vegetables: Primarily carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, cabbage, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, potato (including the skin), bell pepper, tomato, eggplant. Juicing often facilitates high daily vegetable intake, which is ideal.
* Fruits: apples (American), papaya, cranberry, mango, pomegranate, grape.
* Grains: rye, corn, millet, brown rice and barley. Oats is especially recommended.
* Animal products: fresh sardine, anchovy, trout, herring, salmon, cod, butterfish and eel may be taken moderately.
* Sweeteners: Sweeteners must be used moderately. Stevia leaf products and raw honey is recommended.
* Spices: These help to stimulate the qi energy and remove stagnation. Anise, dill, fennel, coriander, marjoram, sage, saffron, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, sorrel, turmeric, allspice, parsley, chives.

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