CANCER AND AYURVEDA
Cancer is a large heterogenous class of diseases in which a group of cells shows uncontrolled growth, invasion to adjacent cells and tissues and destroys them. Cancer is a General name for a group of more than 100 diseases. According to WHO , Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for 7.4 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths). It was predicted by Global demographic characteristics that about 420 million new cases of cancer by 2025 annually. Cancers are commonly identified by the name of organ or tissue affected or originated. (for example, breast cancer, lung cancer,blood cancer etc)
When a cell become damaged or unrepaired do not destroyed and become cancer cells, show uncontrolled division and growth,leading to development of a mass. Cancer cells have the ability to create their own blood supply and they can break away from this original mass of cells, travel through the blood and lymph systems, and lodge in other organs where they can again repeat the uncontrolled growth cycle which lead to life threatening conditions. Death occurs predominantly from organ damage caused by local growth and metastases to distant anatomic areas.
TYPES OF CANCER
Cancer is of different types. They named after the location of growth and types of tissue affected. Names look little complicated for a common man.
Carcinomas are the most common type of cancer. Cancer that affects the skin or tissues that cover internal organs – example – cancers affecting skin, lung, colon, pancreas, ovaries, epithelial, squamous and basal cells. Papillomas, and adenomas are also considered under carcinoma.
Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that forms in epithelial cells of mucus membrane which produce fluids or mucus.
Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the basal layer of the epidermis, which is a person’s outer layer of skin.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that forms in squamous cells, which are cells that lie just beneath the outer surface of the skin.
Sarcomas are cancers that form in bone and soft tissues, including muscle, fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments. Example – cancers of bones, soft tissues, osteosarcoma, synovial membranes, liposarcoma, angiosarcoma and fibrosarcoma etc.
Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood. These cancers do not form solid tumours, but forms large numbers of abnormal white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow, exceeding out normal blood cells.
Cancers affecting the cells of the immune system. In lymphoma, tumours develop in lymph nodes and lymph vessels,
There are two main types of lymphoma:
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Central nervous system cancers:
Cancers that affects tissues of brain and spinal cord
Multiple myelomas are cancer that originates in plasma cells, another type of immune cell
It starts in cells that become melanocytes. These cells are specialized cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives the colour to the skin.
Causes of Cancer
It’s not always possible to identify the exact reason why cancer develops in a person’s body . There are many causes which may cause cancer in different body parts, some of them as follows.
- 22% of cancers are due to tobacco consumption
- 10% are due to improper diet, obesity, lack of physical activity, excessive consumption of alcohol or other facts include certain exposure to ionizing radiation, environmental pollutants, and infection.
- About 15% of cancer in the world is due to some infections like hepatitis b, hepatitis c, human papillomavirus infection, helicobacter pylori, and immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- These factors are at least partly responsible for changing the genetic characters of a person.
- genetic defects inherited from patient’s parents are also responsible for 5-10% of cancer.
- Cancer is caused by the interaction between genetic factors and 3 categories of external factors including:
- Physical Carcinogens: Ionizing radiation such as radon, ultraviolet rays, uranium, radiation from alpha, gamma, beta, and X-ray-emitting sources.
- Chemical Carcinogens: Compounds like asbestos, cadmium, benzene, vinyl chloride, nickel, and benzidine and contains about 60 known potent cancer-causing toxins or chemicals in cigarette smoking or tobacco consumption, heavy metals in drinking water, contaminated foods
- Biological Carcinogens: Infections caused due to certain bacteriae, viruses, parasites and Pathogens like human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C
Signs & Symptoms
Early Symptoms: At the earliest stage, most of the cancer shows no sign or symptoms which misses early diagnosis. Many symptoms are common with many other diseases also. So, diagnosing cancer only with symptoms is not possible.
Some common symptoms that may occur with cancer are as follows:
- Cough persistant for long period or Blood-Tinged Saliva:
- A Change in Bowel Habits : either diarrhoea or constipation
- Blood in the Stool: It is also the early symptom of cancer.
- Unexplained Anaemia
- Breast Lump or Breast Discharge: Most breast lumps are noncancerous tumours like cysts or adenomas, but all lumps should be examined properly. The evaluation includes Ultrasound and x-ray study included MRI of the breast. Discharge from the breast is quite common but may the sign of cancer also, but discharge from only one nipple or bloody discharge should be attended with medical care.
- Lumps in the Testicles: Men with cancer have an uncomfortable or painless lump on a testicle.
- Change in Urination : Especially in males, it may be symptom of prostate diseases.
- Persistent back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Stomach pain and nausea
Late Symptoms: These symptoms are depending on cancer type, location or where the cancer cells have spread.
- Change in bowel or bladder habits.
- Sudden change in the size, colour, shape, or thickness of a wart or mole.
- Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing.
- A sore throat that does not heal.
- Hoarseness of voice.
- Unexplained low-grade fevers may be either persistent or not.
- Recurring Infections.
- Pain in the bones and other body parts.
Diagnosing cancer at its earliest stages often provides the best chance for a cure . Wide varieties of investigations are needed for diagnosing cancer , which start from physical examination to biopsy tests.
Physical examination : examining the lump , their colour , thickness, movability, location etc.
Laboratory investigation : Laboratory tests, such as urine and blood tests, helps for identify irregularities that can be triggered by cancer, for example unusual number of WBC may be an indicative of leukaemia.
Imaging techniques : Imaging tests used are computerized tomography (CT) scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, ultrasound and X-ray.
Biopsy : in this test, sample of cells are collected and investigated for irregularities.it helps for correct diagnosis about the type, severity etc of cancer.
Staging of cancer
Stage 0. This stage describes cancer in situ, which means “in place.” Stage 0 cancers are still located in the place they started and have not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumour with surgery.
Stage I. This stage is usually a small cancer or tumour that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. It also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. It is often called early-stage cancer.
Stage II and Stage III. In general, these 2 stages indicate larger cancers or tumours that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue. They may have also spread to lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
Stage IV. This stage means that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. It may also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.
Treatments for cancer
- SURGERY: is a procedure in which a surgeon take away cancer cells from the body.
- RADIATION THERAPY : Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.
- CHEMOTHERAPY Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
- IMMUNOTHERAPY TO TREAT CANCER Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that modify immune system to fight against cancer.
- TARGETED THERAPY Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets the changes in cancer cells that prevent them from grow, divide, and spread.
- HORMONE THERAPY Hormone therapy slows down or stops the growth of breast and prostate cancers that use hormones to grow.
- STEM CELL TRANSPLANT Stem cell transplants are procedures that restore blood-forming stem cells in cancer patients who have had theirs destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- PRECISION MEDICINE Precision medicine helps doctors select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease.
AYURVEDIC APPROACH FOR CANCER
In Ayurveda , Explanation of concepts like Granthi, Arbuda etc ,shows similarities with cancer. Both indicates unwanted growth of tissues in body. In the context of vrana(Ulcers) also we can observe symptoms resembles malignancy. According to Ayurveda all diseases are caused due to imbalance of tridoshas.
Ayurveda explain arbuda results from lifestyle errors such as unhealthy foods, poor hygiene, or poor behaviour, or from physical trauma, all leading to imbalances of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, Resulting in injury to the inner layer of skin and the formation of abnormal branches of blood vessels. Ashtanga hridaya describes that whenever there is excessive formation of Mamsa dhatu it may lead to various pathological conditions such as alaganda, Gandamala, Arbuda, Granthi and Adimamsa where all indicates excessive growth of tissues.
Granthi has been described as a round, hard, and bulging swelling produced due to vata and kapha aggravation vitiating the muscular tissue, blood, and fatty tissues.
Arbuda has been described as a round, large, muscular, immovable, deeply rooted, slowly growing swelling produced due to the aggravation of Doshas vitiating the muscle, blood, and fatty tissues.
Ayurveda classifies arbuda based on the doshas involved and Dhatu in which the disease originated.
According to Dosha
According to Dhatu
a) Medaja arbuda (fatty tissue)
b) Mamsaja arbuda (muscular tissue)
c) Rakatarbuda (blood)
Pathology according to Ayurveda
Cancer originates due to metabolic changes. Vata dosha is responsible for cell division. Aggravation of Vata dosha and suppression of Kapha dosha or both the doshas interacting with one another may result in proliferation of cells, aggravated Pitha results in destruction of adjacent tissues. Dhatu like rakta leads to spreading of disease.
For treating diseases like cancer combined effort should be taken from different branches of medicine. Even though Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation etc are effective especially in early stages they have severe side effects. Ayurvedic researches are trying to combine both methods of treatment which enhance cure rate as well as reduce side effects.
Ayurvedic treatments can be classified into 5 types:
Following treatment procedures like panchakarma chikithsa periodically will reduce chances for the generation of mutating cells thus reduce chances of malignancy.
Avoiding unhealthy food habits like fast foods, junk foods, fried foods etc will reduce cancer forming causes.
Use of prepartions like chyavanaprasha, amalaka rasayana are good for balancing immunity.
Treating associated symptoms
Symptoms like constipation, loss of appetite etc can be managed well through ayurvedic remedies.
Ayurveda as a main line of treatment for cancer
Complete ayurvedic treatment for cancer is still in its childhood stage. Medicines like guggulu thiktakam ghritam, varanadi kashayam, guggulu preparations, rasagandhi mezhuk etc are found effective in treating cancers. External application of medicated pastes and washes are good for non-healing ulcers.
Ayurveda for rejuvenation
Ayurveda plays major role in this. Ayurvedic therapies found effective to prevent recurrence of disease and to regain the strength and immunity of patient.
Concept of shodhana chikitsa(eliminative therapy) along with rasayana aushadhas will help the patient to regain normal health. Also Ayurvedic treatments will help to reduce digestive problems associated with treatment of cancer. Aswagandha, haridra,amalaki etc are good choices of medicine in different conditions of post cancer therapy.
Ayurveda in palliative care
In advanced stages of cancer where cure is impossible, palliative therapy is advised to reduce the discomforts of patients such as pain, nausea,vomiting etc and also to improve quality of life of patient.
Ayurvedic treatments addresses many problems of the patients like loss of sleep, tastelessness, loss of appetite, bloating , tiredness etc.
It is also effective in treating non healing ulcers and bedsores.
Application of medicated oils prevent chances of bedsores.
Oil application over head along with suitable medicines will reduce anxiety and sleeplessness.
Mild enema is good for constipation.
Fumigation and kshalana of ulcers accelerate healing.
Oil application and fomentation will reduce stiffness of muscles.
Treating disease like cancer with a single system of medicine is like fighting to a military with a single weapon. Ayurveda offers hope in treating cancer through its multidimensional treatment methods. Combining Ayurveda with present existing treatment methods will open a new channel for the cure of cancer.
Implementing preventive concepts of Ayurveda and encourage people to take ayurvedic treatment as a preventive measure , will reduce incidence of cancer in society , and also it will improve general health of public.