Written By-Dr K M Madhu

Introduction

There is enormous scope for Ayurveda in the management of cancer. Cancer is a complex disease which seldom responds to a single therapy. So a multidisciplinary approach will be beneficial for the management. Various areas have been identified in which Ayurveda has great potential.

Ayurvedic View

Ayurveda doesn’t describe this disease as a single entity. The description about the disease can be seen in different topics in our classical texts. Each of these principles has to be differentiated from each chapter and can be used in the treatment. Clinical experience counts here. Even though we may not be able to address all types of cancers in different stages, still have potential areas. Identifying these areas and focusing our activities on them will be a positive step in our future development. Let us see which the potential areas where Ayurveda can perform well are.

Potential areas

  1. Integrative oncology
  2. Geriatric oncology
  3. Palliative care

It may be noted that the above mentioned areas are not the only ones we can treat. These are the areas we have identified from our experience. There may be other possible areas which can be derived in future.

Integrative oncology

This is a new subject in the field of oncology that deals with different therapeutic methods to treat and cure cancer. Essentially it is a multidisciplinary approach. This topic can be explained using the observations made in the treatment of carcinoma breast.

Triple negative carcinoma breast have more chances of recurrence. It was observed that in a few cases the survival rate without recurrence was encouraging.

No Age Survival Symptoms
1 55 10 years N
2 59 10 years N
3 37 7 years N
4 53 5 years N
5 70 5 years N
6 44 4 years N
7 36 4 years N
8 53 3 years N
9 60 3 years N

 

All these cases were treated with conventional modern treatments. They took Ayurvedic medicines after these treatments. This is a perfect example for integration. Two systems of medicine were applied here which gave better results. Since this is not a clinical study, the control group was not studied.

Geriatric oncology

India’s older population will increase dramatically over next four decades. The share of India’s population ages 60 and older is projected to climb from 8% in 2010 to 19% in 2050 according to the United Nations Population Division (UN 2011). This data is relevant in cancer cases too. There are many limitations for older people affected with cancer to undergo aggressive therapies. Physically and psychologically they may not be in a position to receive these therapies. This makes them to have a difficult period. Ayurveda has scope in dealing such cases. An example is cited below to show how a patient is benefited with Ayurvedic treatment.

A patient of 80 years was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma of Prostate. It was in 2013.  He opted Ayurveda. On his initial visit, he had voiding difficulty. He was advised to take the following medicines.

  1. Gugguluthiktham kashayam 10 ml twice daily
  2. Sahadevyadi leham 3 g twice daily
  3. Rasasindooram 250 mg twice daily
  4. Varanadi gritham 10 ml at bedtime
  5. Dasamoolam paneeyam for drinking

He has completed the treatment for 3 years. Presently he is assymptomatic. He could avoid other treatments and leading a good quality life. The PSA level has fluctuations during this period.

Date PSA (ng/mL)
11.07.13 11.09
30.07.13 22.92
07.09.13 15.03
26.09.13 21.05
23.11.13 32.06
26.12.13 26.58
24.02.14 29.88
29.05.14 35.08
07.01.15 43.54
22.07.15 64.11
18.10.15 49.00

 

Palliative care

Palliative care is one of the areas where Ayurveda can contribute. Symptom control is the main objective in palliative care. Few studies conducted in this area show the potential of Ayurveda. Constipation is one of the symptoms complained by the patients. A study conducted using Misrakasneaham in Morphine induced constipation showed good result. It was published in an international journal (Journal of pain and symptom management in Oct 1998). Two other small studies were conducted in palliative care showed encouraging results. They are management of radiation induced mucositis with Sathadowtha Gritham and management of anorexia using Viswamritham.

Conclusion

Ayurveda can play a major role in selected areas in cancer management. Its potential in other areas of cancer care has yet to reveal.