Eastern medicine’s approach to cancer treatment is used in China, Korea, Japan, and many other countries around the globe. One would expect it in the very birthplace of Eastern medicine, yet not all North Americans know that it is also used in the motherland of modern Western medicine itself, the U.S.A. Each year, U.S. News & World Report ranks the best hospitals, and eight of the top nine cancer treatment hospitals listed in 2012-13 incorporate both Western and Eastern medicine (only number eight in the ranking does not).

The Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center all operate West/East medical centres.

The central characteristic of Eastern medicine’s cancer treatment is that it focuses not on the cancer but on strengthening one’s overall energy and body function. It concentrates on leading the human body to treat the cancer by itself through restoration of the digestive system, improving blood flow and nutrient absorption, strengthening the immune system, and restoring body function.

In contrast, Western medicine aims first at attacking and getting rid of pathogens directly. Eastern medicine is now widely used in cancer treatment as a complementary and alternative therapy to deal with side effects from surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Allopathic cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, can damage bone marrow, the immune system and the lining of the digestive system, causing side effects such as decreased physical strength and immunity, reduced appetite, lassitude, anemia, decreased number of white blood cells and platelets, diarrhea, vomiting, and baldness. Western medicine does have ways of treating these, but they merely reduce the symptoms. However, Eastern medicine’s approach of tonifying the body involves reducing side effects in addition to directly increasing the body’s own immunity and restoring bodily function, and focusing on enhancing the patient’s quality of life.

For example, long term allopathic cancer treatments may reduce the appetite and lead to malnutrition, resulting in severe complications which can reach such a level that treatment just can’t be given any more. Liu Jun Zi Tang, one of the most commonly used herb formulas, has been verified to improve clinical effects such as prevention of reflux esophagitis, increasing of physical strength (strengthening qi), improving appetite, and decreasing the sense of bloating caused by obstruction in the upper digestive system after surgery (in digestive cancer). Another herb formula, Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, is also clinically verified to improve blood cell production, blood platelet and white blood cell counts, as well as immunity and physical strength. These medications are not contraindicated during chemotherapy treatment, and in fact support and further the concentration of these drugs in the blood.

Currently, Eastern medicine’s contribution to cancer treatment in western countries is no longer limited to supplemental effects. It has expanded into the area of controlling cancer cells directly, controlling metastasis, and improving cancer-susceptible constitutions. These effects have been clinically proven in the case of breast cancer, colon cancer, and bladder cancer.