Integrated East-West
Medicine For Breast And
Ovarian Cancer
May 20, 1998

Presenter: Dr. Raymond Chang by Esther Trepal

We SHARE participants are pro-active in seeking out the latest and most effective means of enhancing our physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional well being. So it was with great interest that 250 of us attended the May 20 presentation by Dr. Raymond Chang on the integration of East-West medicine for breast and ovarian cancer. Lord & Taylor hosted this program. Dr. Chang is an attending physician at New York Hospital and Medical Director of the Meridian Medical Group. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Cornell known for his research and expertise in herbs.Dr. Chang began by describing the basic focus diagnostic techniques and treatment modalities of Eastern medicine or as it is commonly called, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM focuses on four fundamentals. First are the basics, which include Qi, blood and fluids Second are the organs. But they are approached from a functional nor a physical, point of view The kidneys, for example, are associated with urinary functions as well as sexual functions. The third fundamental is connections, or meridians. And the fourth is disturbed harmony, which is the cause of illness In this regard there are the six pernicious influences (wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, fire), seven emotions (sadness, anger, joy, worry excess thought, fear, shock) and other factors such as diet or physical activityDiagnosing illness in TCM concerns itself with this fundamental. Observations of the patient, examining the tongue and taking the pulse are the major methods. Dr. Chang noted that in Western medicine, the pulse indicates only two things-rate and rhythm. But in TCM there are 23 different pulses that provide the examiner with more detailed information about the patient.

In Western medicine, treatment for cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery In TCM, treatment is centered on three modalities: herbs, acupuncture and exercise (e.g. Qi Gong) and massage or other bodywork Whereas Western medicine tries to use as few treatment modalities as possible. TCM herbal formulations are complex and include many ingredients. Furthermore, more than one modality is often used concurrently.

Having presented an overview of Western versus Eastern medicine, Dr. Chang went on to show how the two approaches can be used in the treatment of cancer. Because they have few negative side effects, TCM modalities are useful in many ways. For example, they may be used as a preventative. This is especially true for exercise and tonics, which can be incorporated into daily activities and not thought of as a separate “treatment” program. Also, a combination of modalities can be used either alone or in conjunction with Western medical treatments. TCM is effectively used as a palliative for pain, nausea and anxiety And last, while Dr. Chang does not see TCM as a cure for cancer, he does view it as an excellent adjunct treatment that improves the odds of cure.

Herbs are the major modality used in TCM. Dr. Chang listed some possible mechanisms of anti-tumor action by these herbs: They are cytotoxic (destroy cells), induce apoptosis (programmed cell “suicide”), induce differentiation (“reprogram” the cell), stimulate the immune system and inhibit invasion and metastasis (anti-angiogenesis) Active components include flavonoids (found in soy), thiol (in garlic), licorice, bromelain, and fish oils, etc. With regard to the use of soy products by women on Tamoxifen, Dr. Chang stated that he would use soy in moderation. Its estrogenic compounds (genistein and daidzein) are weak relative to the drugs so he believes they would not interfere with its action in dietary amounts. At the same time, soy has many other and-cancer properties (e.g. anti-angiogenic) that make it valuable.

Dr. Chang made special note of the properties of mushrooms, some of which contain a substance called glucan polysaccharide, broad immune stimulator. This group of mushrooms, which includes shiitake has the added advantage of being non-estrogenic and free of side effects. Dr. Chang was not enthusiastic about the popular maitake mushrooms, because he has not seen any studies that he believes support its acclaimed health benefits. Additional information on the properties of mushrooms can be found in the writings of Christopher Hobbs.

Dr. Chang summarized the benefits of TCM in cancer therapy; stating that it enhances recovery from surgery, enhances the efficiency of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, decreases the side effects of these two treatments increases survival rates, increases the quality of life and possibly prevents recurrence. Reducing side effects leads to the ability to give higher doses of chemo and radiation, thus enhancing the possibility/probability of a cure. Good news for all.