2. 20. 13
Why the Chinese System seems to work so well:
Since returning from Guangzhou and Fuda I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why their method seems to work so well and exactly how it is different from the American approach for treating cancer. Several things stand out. Both seemed to be related to the Chinese culture.
The first difference seems to be an alignment with the traditional and centuries old system of Chinese medicine that works through supporting the immune system. With western medicine it seems as if cancer is an enemy, a foe of the body, which needs to be totally eliminated by extreme methods to the end to be sure of a total victory. The goal at Fuda seems to be slightly different. Instead of seeing cancer as a foreign enemy, the disease seems to be treated as a system out of whack, with the body taking extreme measures because it’s normal processes are not doing the job. Treatments are chosen for their ability to work WITH the immune system, to assist the body back into its normal healthy function.*
Since the body’s immune system already has a method to remove foreign bodies, the killer cells, it makes perfect sense to use cyroablation as a primary method of tumor elimination. Killing the tumor through bursting it with cryoablation’s double freeze method and leaving the now dead tumor cells to be cleaned up by the body, actually stimulates the body’s own method of foreign body clean up. This is exactly how small, secondary sights , disappear on their own., which is often observed in follow-up imaging of cryoablation patients. The Chinese have added a very effective therapy to assist this process. It’s called Combined Immunotherapy for Cancer (CIC). Blood is taken from a patient to gather the lymphocytes which are “highly potent and efficient memory T-cells”….……”These cells are specific for the tumor type, replacing the weak immune cells in the patient against metastatic tumor cells.”** This is similar to DC-CIK therapy, approved by the FDA and used in the west, but, at Fuda, they have made it even more effective by using the patient’s own blood. Both cryoablation and CIC treatments work WTH the immune system to stimulate an immune response, cleaning the body of small metastases which often are too small to be picked up by imagining. The phase I heard at Fuda was that cancer eventually leaves the body at the cellular level.
The protocol in the west is to use three main treatments: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to destroy cancer. For the 80% of new diagnosis that already have a metastasis, the immune system is being compromised right when it is needed most*** Instead of shutting down the immune system through chemotherapy, the Chinese seem to be very careful to not harm the immune system right when it’s needed most, to find and destroy metastatic sites.
At Fuda, if chemotherapy is needed to reduce a tumor before ablation, a different, immune protecting method is used called CMI, Cancer Microvessel Intervention. This method “combines different chemo medicines into a fine grain particle, by using super selective catheterization, this fine grain particle will be distributed inside the artery which supplies the target cancer. These fine grain particles of chemo medicine will stay inside the tumor tissue and maintain a high density for a long period of time…….the side effects on the body are much less than with systemic chemotherapy.”***
The second difference that stands out to me is Fuda’s individualized approach. In the west breast cancer patients are offered “protocols” for treatment based on statistical evidence. The protocols feel like a one size fits all system, with the most extreme treatments being encouraged (mastectomy) to garner the best results. Treatments at Fuda seem to favor the keeping of body parts and the tailoring of treatment to suit the individual situation, with adjustments being made as responses are analyzed. I believe these protocols may be another cultural difference, likely influenced as a protection against our litigious society. In the west, individual rights are foremost and protected at all costs. In the east, the whole group is strongest when all it’s parts are functioning at their best so the individual supporting the group and the group supporting the individual is a big motivator. (This thinking echoes all the body parts being necessary for the best support of the body). At Fuda, the hospital’s reputation as a successful place of healing is a motivator. The medical team’s support of each other working in tandem with the patient and their family is a motivator. Working for the honor and reputation of their system of healing is a motivator. The group working together seems to be the way the individual is best supported. A fear factor of being sued is not part of the equation.
The philosophy of all the body parts being needed and should be protected through repair and not removal has an echo in a system that honors and supports all different parts involved; the hospital personal, the family members, and, most importantly, the patient. That’s why, at Fuda, the decision making centers around the patient’s needs and a great amount of attention is given to educating the patient and their family members to understand the processes and treatments at work; how the body functions and how the treatments effect these processes. This is done through focus groups offered weekly on each ward, through the many helpful books and brochures given out, and, most importantly, through personal counseling and group assessment meetings that include all the doctors working on the case along with the patient and their family members. When a healing occurs, it definitely comes through this group effort.
These doctors see the patient as a whole and include their emotional health and attitude as one of the most important features to be addressed. So important is this factor that each ward includes a doctor of psychology available during daytime hours for use by all the patients, their family members AND any hospital staff who might need their services and advice. I asked the Psychologist I was introduced to for an example of her use that day. She told me about talking with a nurse that had recently broken up with her boyfriend and was having trouble sleeping. This was important as it was affecting her alertness on her job. She said a lot of her job was to have good listening skills, allowing the processing of emotions surrounding an iss, but that she also specialized in coping techniques such as her having also that day, helped a patient who became stressful every time he heard a knock on his door as he was afraid of it meaning he had an unpleasant treatment coming. She had helped him train his mind step by step to not react to the knock and to see his treatments in a more positive light as they were bringing him his desired healing.
Next to the Psychologist’s office, every ward has a Nutritionist on hand to council the eating habits of the patient and their families as food is seen as the body’s most important factor in good health. Most western doctors are not even trained in nutrition, although modern west science is constantly linking eating habits to diseases.
Finally, every one at the hospital has access and are encouraged to use the services of the traditional Chinese medicine personal housed at the hospital. Since my stay included housing in this wing, I witnesses on a daily basis, usually in the evening after work or before bedtime, nurses having acupuncture for a sore back, patients having their feet soaked in an herbal bath, personal having a healing herb called moxibotten burned over acupressure points. I came away with a strong impression that health lies in the strength of whole functioning together for the support of the individual.
These two cultural differences; a system based on immune support in the east verses total eradication in the west, and, the philosophy that all the parts functioning properly are necessary for the health of the whole in the east verses eradication of the nonfunctioning parts at all costs in the west, is probably why cyroablation has been embraced and is thieving at China’s Fuda Hospital in Guangzhou and no equivalent treatment center is to be found here in the west, where it was first developed and pioneered. This is especially disconcerting to myself, a western woman who so happily benefitted from having my breast frozen almost ten years ago by one of cryoablation’s best pioneers, Dr. Peter Littrup, from Detroit. My thought then was “who wouldn’t want to save her breasts and get an immune effect”. The question most asked me now, either in China or here in the states is, “if this is so good and can actually save a woman’s breasts and give her an immune effect, why haven’t I heard of it??”.
Perhaps there are other motivating factors, such as medical treatments being driven by economics in the west and the politics of which treatments best benefit the enormous infrastructure of the breast cancer treatment machine. But, at a very basic level, cultural differences undoubtedly are a contributing factor to the west apparent lack of interest.
* Quote from book written by Fuda Hospital’s director, Kencheng Xu,>“Nothing but the Truth” : Cancer is a chronic disease. We can take a two-prone approach of disease prevention (defense) and treatment (reform). Long-term survival with cancer is feasible. The current understanding of cancer treatment has led to the change from the concept of “total elimination of cancer cells at all costs” to the process of effective disease control or basic control of disease development; from “confrontation till the end” to “peaceful coexistence” with cancer.”
**Fuda Hospital informational brochure that explains CIC, Combined Immunotherapy for Cancer
***Fuda Hospital informational brochure explaining Cancer Microvessel Intervention, CMI