Mr B, 59 yrs, education consultant. His first visit was in Feb 2007. The patient’s main complaint was having an abdominal ache which started in May last year. The ache often set off after food. His bowel motions had been increasing from normally once every day to 3-4 times a day, but the stools were soft and well formed. His appetite was normal. He didn’t have any tired feeling. He’d always had light sleep during the night, and recently it seemed to take longer to fall to sleep. Mr B suspected his symptoms could have been caused by the emotional turbulence after his sister died from cancer the year before. According to the clinical manifestations, his GP thought he had irritable bowels syndrome and prescribed some medication. But after taking the medication for a few months, Mr B didn’t feel any improvement, so he stopped taking them, and was persuaded by his wife to try acupuncture. The patient had a thin figure. His abdomen was flat and soft, had tenderness when pressed on the left side, but no mass was felt. His tongue was pink with a thin, white coating. His pulse was slightly thin.

First stage of treatment: Feb 2007 – Apr 2007

According to the patient’s clinical manifestations in the first visit, the syndrome pattern was Spleen qi deficiency, which led to abnormal transformation. The therapeutic principle should be tonifying the Spleen qi, and weekly acupuncture treatment was applied. In the first treatment, the selected points were Zhong Wan (RN12), Qi Hai (RN6), Tian Shu (ST25), San Yin Jiao (SP16), right Zu San Li (ST36) and left Feng Long (ST40). Electric current was added to the needles.  In the week after the first treatment, the patient didn’t feel any difference. In the second treatment, electric acupuncture was applied again, but different points were used. They were Hua Tuo Jia Ji on level T7, T9, T11, L2 and San Yin Jiao (SP16). After this treatment, the patient’s bowels’ movements reduced from 3-5 times a day to 2 times a day. His abdominal ache was alleviated, and he could fall to sleep sooner in the evenings. He went on holiday for a month after the third session of acupuncture, and came back without any change. He had another two sessions of acupuncture, and then stopped having treatment himself. 

Second stage of treatment: Oct 2007 – May 2008

Mr B visited my clinic again in Oct 24, 2007. He told me that because he’d been having constant discomfort in the abdomen, he was referred by the GP to have further investigation. The result showed he had bowel cancer, and it’d also spread to his lungs and liver. The doctor estimated he could survive 18 months. He was having chemotherapy at the time and attacked by the side-effects. He had obvious fatigue, low appetite, nausea, cold hands with tingling sensation and poor sleep. His tongue was pink with a thin white coating. His cheeks and nail bed looked purple. His pulse was thready on the Cun position. The syndrome pattern was Spleen and Lung qi deficiency with blood stasis. Electro-acupuncture was given on points Hua Tuo Jia Ji T3, T5, T7, T9, T11He Gu (L14), and Wai Guan (SJ5). Needling and moxabustion were also given on Da Zhui (Du14). Almost every time after treatment, the patient had an instant improvement. When the chemotherapy was finished, some other points in addition to the above ones were also used. They were Zhong Wan (RN12), Tian Shu (ST25), Qi Hai (RN6), San Yin Jiao (SP6), Feng Long (ST40), Zu San Li (ST36). A check up in Dec 2007 showed that the patient responded well to the chemotherapy, and the tumours had shrunk. He kept having acupuncture every two weeks, and took some vitamins and mineral supplements himself. Apart from having bowels opened 2-4 times a day, he didn’t have any other symptoms, and then stopped having acupuncture in May 2008.

Third stage of treatment: Nov 2008 – Jun 2009

Mr B visited my clinic again in Nov 2008. He said the latest routine check up had found progressing tumours, and he was having chemotherapy again. The same acupuncture points as before were used until the course of chemotherapy ended. The patient said the acupuncture treatment worked so well for the side-effects of chemotherapy that every time after the treatment he felt a quick relief from the symptoms and more energetic. A CT scan in Apr 2009 showed that he responded well to the chemotherapy, and the tumours had shrunk again. Considering the patient’s weight loss after the chemotherapy, more should be done to replenish qi, I suggested he take herbal medicine as well, and he agreed. Some concentrated herbal powders were prescribed to nourish the Spleen and Kidney. They were Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng), Huang Qi (Radix Astragali), Jiao Gu Lan (Herba Gynostemma Pent Aphyllum), Nu Zhen Zi (Fructus Ligustri Lucidi), Huang Jing (Rhizoma Polygonati), Yin Yang Huo (Herba Epimedii), Fu Ling (Poria), Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocepholae), Bian Dou (Semen Dolichoris Album), Jie Gen (Radix Platycodi). He was also asked to cook porridge with Chi Xiao Dou (Semen Phaseoli), Hong Zao (Frctus Jujubae), Gou Qi Zi (Fructs Lycii), Sheng Yi Ren (Semen Coicis) and brown sugar, and eat one bowl of it every day. After a month, the patient gained more than 1 stone’s weight – back to the normal level when he was healthy before having cancer. He felt very well and had no symptoms.

Forth stage of treatment: Jun 2009 – Jul 2011

Three CT scans in Jun 2009, Nov 2009 and Feb 2010 all indicated the tumours were growing bigger, so the patient was given chemotherapy again. But half way through, Mr B suddenly had shingles in his left neck and chest, and the chemotherapy had to be suspended. When he came to see me, he was in dreadful pain. The lesions were bright red, and cluster of blisters filled with yellow liquid were seen on the top. The syndrome pattern was accumulation of fire toxin, and electro-acupuncture was applied surround the lesion areas and also in Wan Gu (GB12), Da Zhui (Du14) and Jian Jing (GB21). Three days later, most of the blisters had already shrunk, and the red patches were getting smaller. After two sessions of acupuncture, Mr B’s doctor resumed the chemotherapy due to his remarkable improvement. It took 8 sessions of acupuncture (one month) all together to see a normal skin colour and complete pain free. 

Fifth stage of treatment: Oct 2010 – Feb 2011-05-10

Following an eminent cancer specialist’s advice, Mr B went to a special clinic in Germany in Oct 2010 to have private hyperthermia treatment which lasted for three weeks.  When he came back, I was shocked by his change – much thinner, looked tired and haggard. There was a bald patch with the size of a walnut on his head. He said he was coughing a lot and bringing up green and sticky phlegm. He had short breath and lost appetite. His tongue was red with very little coating. His pulse was thready and slightly fast. I was told that hyperthermia is a treatment in which the body is exposed to high temperatures (up to 113°F) to kill or damage the cancer cells. And the hyperthermia was applied in conjunction with chemotherapy. According to what he said, I presumed that this treatment was so intense that it over consumed and damaged the body fluid, led to depletion of both qi and yin. The abnormal water metabolism caused accumulation of phlegm in the Lung. The treatment now should be looking at the whole body, rather than just focus on certain organs. Acupuncture was applied in Hua Tuo Jia Ji points alternately – on level T1, T3, T5, T7, T9, T11, L1 in one treatment, and on level T2, T4, T6, T8, T10, T12, L2  in another. San Yin Jiao (SP6) and Jue Gu (GB39) were also used. Because of the progressive changes showed in CT scan, another course of chemotherapy was given by the doctor. The patient’s breathlessness was a lot worse soon after, and he had to inhale oxygen to get some relief. Then he started to have hot flushes and sweating, which was especially bad at night. He had to change tops up to 7 times a night and couldn’t get any sleep. This was due to further damage to qi and yin, and there was a danger of deficient yang going collapse, which would be a critical condition. Fearing acupuncture wouldn’t be able to cope this on its own, I prescribed some herbal medicine to nourish qi and yin, and tonify the Heart to tranquilize mind.  The herbs were Huang Qi (Radix Astragali), Dang Shen (Radix Cononopsis), Mai Dong (Radix Ophiopogonis), Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae), Nu Zhen Zi (Fructus Ligustri Lucidi), Yin Yang Huo (Herba Epimedii), Mu Li (Concha Ostreae), Fu Xiao Mai (Fructus Tritici Levis), Ye Jiao Teng (Caulis Polygoni Multiflori), Da Zao (Fruct Ziziphi Jujubae) and Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae). They were made into decoction and taken twice a day. Seven days later, the hot flushes and night sweats stopped. The patient also complained about blocked and ringing ears, which affected his hearing. The doctor suspected this was caused by steroid he was using and couldn’t do anything about it. Then points Feng Chi (GB20), Wan Gu (GB12) and Jue Gu (GB29) were added in acupuncture, and the symptoms were relieved after four weeks. The patient’s breathlessness didn’t get better, and the doctor found it was caused by pleural effusion and drained the liquid two times, but the breathlessness didn’t get any better. He kept losing weight and his skin lost elasticity. His stamina was fading quickly and he was more and more relying on oxygen supply. Feb 23, 2011, Mr B suddenly had severe breathlessness and was taken to the hospice, where he died three days later. His family was satisfied about the result, saying to me that he hadn’t suffered too much, and they thought TCM had made a big difference. TCM had accompanied him fighting with the cancer for three and a half years since he was diagnosed – two years longer than what the doctor expected.


In this case, TCM treatment successfully alleviated the symptoms of cancer and side-effects of chemotherapy, and enhanced the patient’s quality of life. It played a positive role in extending the patient’s life. During the treatment, both acupuncture and herbal medicine worked well, and each of them showed their own advantages. A conclusion can be drawn that to acquire satisfactory results, the practitioner should adopt corresponding therapeutic method according to the clinical manifestations at different stages, combine acupuncture and herbal medicine, and bring their respective strong points into play.

Once get a clear diagnosis, cancer patients usually receive routine treatments from Western medicine. These treatments are allopathic and are aiming at killing the cancer cells or suppressing their growth at the cost of damaging the body itself. Chinese medicine as a complementary treatment, its predominant principle should be strengthening healthy qi, not eliminating the pathogen. Any disease is a process of combat between the healthy qi and the pathogenic qi. If the healthy qi can be strengthened, then the body’s immunity will be enhanced and its self-rehabilitating mechanism will be activated, so that the body can fight with the disease. Regarding cancer, though it can’t be cured, it’s still possible for the body to launch a protracted battle with the cancer, and the patient could live with the cancer for a long time.