Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is becoming increasingly popular in many medical contexts, particularly among patients with cancer. TCM encompasses a range of modalities including herbal medicine, acupuncture, medical qigong, dietary recommendations and meditation (daoyin). In contrast to standard chemotherapeutic and hormonal regimens used for the adjuvant treatment of early stage breast cancer, very little data from controlled clinical trials has been generated using TCM modalities in relationship to the outcomes of recurrence or survival, or even overall quality of life and safety. As we previously reported1, the objectives of TCM modalities are manifold - the reduction of therapeutic toxicity, improvement in cancer-related symptoms, improvements in the immune system, and even a direct anti-cancer effect. The primary basis of TCM rests upon empirical evidence and case studies, as well as its theoretical principles. In some cases, laboratory or clinical data lend support to these modalities. Although TCM practices are based on ancient medical tenets founded on centuries of experience, and documented through oral and written texts, its direct relationship to breast cancer treatment in an integrative setting is very young. There is still a paucity of evidence in the clinical setting, which limits firm conclusions about the effectiveness or safety of most TCM approaches to breast cancer. This review will summarise the application of certain TCM modalities in the context of chemotherapy, enhancing immune function, and treating hematopoesis and peripheral neuropathy.
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