Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women due to cancer. Early diagnosis and correct treatment can increase the chances of promoting a full remission. Delay in disease diagnosis and treatment will make it exceedingly difficult for the patient to recover, whatever may be the treatment stream opted for.
Ayurvedic treatment would be effective if applied during the early stage of the disease. However, the progress of the treatment should be evaluated using modern diagnostic methods. Modern treatment methods should be opted for in case the disease is in advanced condition. In this stage, Ayurvedic methods can be applied for treating conditions that could be impediments for the treatment of cancer and for the patient to regain bodily strength that would have been lost due to the cancer treatment. Ayurvedic treatment methods can be also used after recovery to prevent the relapse of the cancer and to maintain bodily and mental wellbeing.
Ayurveda and Breast Cancer
There are six types of cancers as per Ayurvedic texts.
- Vathaja Arbudam (Arbuda is the Sanskrit word meaning Cancer)
- Pithaja Arbudam
- Kaphaja Arbudam
- Mamsaja Arbudam
- Medoja Arbudam
- Rakthaja Arbudam
In addition to the above, in texts related to some specific body areas, especially in Mukharogadhikaram, ( Mukha means upper body parts) there is mention about Mukharbudam, Mamsarbudam, etc. But when the maturation process / pathogenesis (Roga Samprampthi) of cancer is analysed, it can be found that the descriptions in the Ayurvedic texts of diseases like Grandhi Rogam, Nadi Rogam, Vidradhi, etc. can also be included in the category of cancer as described in the present age.
Reasons for the Disease
Cancer can be caused because of various internal and external reasons. The changes in the lifestyles and habits are causing significant changes in the hormone system of humans. The changes in diet, exercising and environment are also causing major changes to the internal structure of the body. This, in turn, causes genetic flaws and gives way to cancer.
Rogha Samprapthi (disease maturation)
Even though specific references to breast cancer cannot be found in Ayurvedic texts, the various stages of Cancer (Arbudam), Nadi Vranam, Grandhi, Vidradhi, etc. as described in these texts bear similarity to the various stages as observed of breast cancer. The six ways of progression of the disease as described in his texts by Susruta, the ancient Ayurvedic expert, are most in line with the maturation / pathogenesis of cancer. The various ways of progression can be compared to the various stages of the disease as considered in modern treatment methods. This is of utmost importance also in the treatment of the disease. The ways of progression are as below:
- Sanchayanam – Early stages of localised neoplastic stages
- Prakopam – Transformation of primary growth into metastatic tumour
- Prasaram – Metastasis
- Sthanasamshrayam – Complete metastasis and secondary growth
- Vrikthi – Clinical signs and symptoms are manifested
- Bhedam – Stage where differentiation of growth occurs on the basis of histopathology
Ayurvedic texts and scriptures say that no disease is possible without the occurrence of deficiency of Agni (Agni Mandhyam, Agni- Digestive fire). Because of this, the prevalence of Jadaragni Mandhyam and Dhathwagni Mandhyam should be viewed very seriously. The prevalence of Dhathwagni Mandhyam does not allow the correct building of any Dhathu ( Tissues) and becomes a reason for the increase of its Poshyadhathu. This increase could be a reason for the proportional increase of cancerous cells.
Tri-Dosha balance (Samrutha) is required for good health (Swasthyadayakam). Hence it is important to preserve the balance of the Tri-Dosha that are Vatha-Pitha-Kapha. The Vatha-Dosha proportionally increases and the Kapha-Dosha is deficient, which causes the increase in cancerous cells in conditions like cancer.
If the case of breast cancer is taken, as explained above, Dhathwagni Mandhyam and imbalance of the Tri-Dosha can all cause the disease. However, the importance of sources will also become clear when cancer types like ductal carcinoma and tubular carcinoma are examined. This is a special condition where Nadi Vranam, Vidhathi Samprapthi and Grandhi Samprapthi will all converge.
It would be optimal to decide the treatment method based on modern diagnostic methods. Ayurvedic treatment could be adopted in the early stages of the disease or during the later stages after surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
- Preservation of Agni (Agni Samrakshanam) – Create conditions for the proper functioning of Jadaragni and Dhathwagni.
- Maintain the balance of the Tri-Dosha.
Pancha Karma and other treatments could be adopted for this after assessing the bodily strength of the patient.
Various Types of Treatments
- Shodhana Chikithsa (Purification Therapy)
The following treatments can be carried out:
For Pithaja Arbudam – Virechanam
For Kapha Arbudam – Vamanam
- Shamana Chikithsa (Pacifying Therapy)
The medicines usually given for the treatment of breast cancer for increasing Dhathwagni, for preserving the balance of the Tri-Dosha and for the effective healing of the disease are as follows:
- Panchathiktakam Kashayam – Add 15ml Kashayam in 45ml of boiled and cooled water and consume two times a day (one hour before food)
- Guggulutiktakam Kashayam – Add 15ml Kashayam in 45ml of boiled and cooled water and consume two times a day (one hour before food)
- Mahathikthakam Kashayam – Add 15ml Kashayam in 45ml of boiled and cooled water and consume two times a day (one hour before food)
- Vidaryadi Kashayam – Add 15ml Kashayam in 45ml of boiled and cooled water and consume two times a day (one hour before food)
- Guggulutiktakam Ghritham – 1teaspoon each at the time of going to sleep
- Vidaryadi Ghritham – 1teaspoon each at the time of going to bed
- Sahadevyadi Lehyam – 1 teaspoon each at the time of going to bed
- Consumption of Gomoothram (cow urine) and Gomoothrarkam
- Pippali Choornam – 2g each, two times a day
- Varuna Choornam – 3g each, two times a day
- Thazhuthama Choornam / Punarnava Choornam – 6g each, two times a day
- Various applications of Bhallatakam, especially, Bhallataka Ghritham, Bhallataka Thailam, etc.
- Sanjeevani Thailam
- Kalyanakam Ghritham
Some of the medicines mentioned in Ayurveda texts also have anti-cancerous properties. These can also be orally consumed. Many of these medicines will also improve the strength to resist the disease. Some of these are listed below:
- Abrus Precatorius
- Albizia Lebbeck
- Allium Sativum
- Aloe Vera
- Alstonia Scholaris
- Amura Rohitaka
- Anacardium Occidentale
- Asparagus Racemosa
- Bacopa Monniera
- Berberis Aristata
- Boswellia Serrata
- Calotropis Gigantea
- Curcuma Longa
- Datura Metel
- Erythrina Suberosa
- Euphorbia Hirta
- Luffa Cylindrica
- Melia Azediracta
- Muringa Oleifera
- Ocimum Sanctum
- Paederia Foetida
- Picrorhiza Kurroa
- Rubia Cordifolia
- Vinca Rosea
- Withania Somnifera
- Rasayana Chikitsa
Rasayana medicines could be served to improve resistance to the disease, to regain the strength that the body would have lost after undergoing treatment by modern methods, to improve longevity, to improve intellectual faculty and memory capacity, to maintain the health of skin, voice and other organs.
Rasayana that can be served are listed below:
- Chyavanaprasam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Brahma Rasayana – 1 Teaspoon each before going to bed.
- Amalaka Rasayanam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Abhayamalaka Rasayanam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Nagabala Rasayanam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Bhallathaka Rasayanam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Brahmi Rasayanam – 1teaspoon each before going to bed at night
- Medhya Rasayanam – Mandukaparni Swarasam – 24ml each two times a day
– Yashtimadhu Choornam – 6g each to be added to milk and taken two times a day
– Guduchi Swarasam – 24ml each two times a day
– Shankapushpi (Samadalam) – Kalkam 12g each two times a day
- Pippalivarndhamana Rasayanam
- Triphala Rasayanam
- Shilajathu Rasayanam
- Lashuna Rasayanam
- Lakshanika Chikithsa
During breast cancer treatment, even though not directly related to the disease, the patients would have many other related difficulties. Ayurveda treatment is highly effective for treating all these conditions. Some of the conditions and the treatment for these are listed below:
- Absence of hunger pangs
– Guluchyadi Kashayam – Add 15ml Kashayam in 45ml of boiled and cooled water and consume two times a day
– Ashta Choornam – 1teaspoon, two times a day
– Vaishwanara Choornam – 1teaspoon, two times a day
- Tiredness – Drakshadi Kashayam
– Ashwaganda Choornam
– Kalyanakam Kashayam
– Manasamitram Vatakam
- Nausea / vomiting
– Gandharvahastadi Kashayam
- Weight loss
– Medicines that are mixtures of Ashwagandha, Shathavari, Draksha, Bala, etc.
– Vidaryadi Ghritham
– Gandharvahastadi Kashayam
– Chirivilwadi Kashayam
– Dhanwantaram Tablets
- Pradhana (main) Chikithsa
There are references in Ayurveda also of modern treatment methods like surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, these are not found to be adopted in present times. Lepanam (application of medicated paste) with Theekshanadravyam, Ksharaprayogam (application of ashes of medicinal plants) and Agniprayogam (application of fire) are all ancient forms of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
- Dietary Control and other routines (Pathyapathyangal)
These will help in preventing the disease condition from becoming worse and for maintaining good general health.
- Breast Cancer patient should do exercise immediately after surgery so that the muscles of the hand and chest get some relief so that these can function properly.
- Consume maximum vegetarian food
- Include lots of fruits and vegetables in the diet
- Avoid bad habits like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes
- Carefully perform Yogasana routines while also including breathing exercises
- Maintain body weight in the prescribed level
- Discussions and exchange of ideas with people who have recovered from the disease will help in reducing anxiety about the disease
- Do not slip on getting check-ups done at regular intervals
- Find avenues for maintaining a cheerful mental state (dance, music, reading, gardening, etc.)
- Include small quantities of pure cow milk and ghee in the diet
- Avoid packed and ready-to-eat foods, bottled drinks and food from outside