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The role of traditional Chinese medicine in colorectal cancer treatment

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Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have been the mainstay of colorectal cancer treatment. There is however current intense research on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as novel or additional treatment methods for colorectal cancer. This article reviews the current use of TCM in colorectal cancer so as to increase the awareness of colorectal surgeons. The pathogenesis of colorectal cancer according to TCM is discussed. TCM has been used successfully during the perioperative period to relieve intestinal obstruction, reduce postoperative ileus and reduce urinary retention after rectal surgery. Good results have been reported in the treatment of the complications of chemotherapy and radiation enterocolitis. Favourable results have also been shown in the use of TCM either alone or in combination with chemotherapy to treat advanced colorectal cancer. Molecular studies have shown some TCM compounds to reduce tumour cell proliferation and induce apoptosis. Although the reported results of TCM have been exciting thus far, problems of lack of consensus on treatment regimes and questions on the reliability, validity and applicability of published studies prevent its widespread use. There is now an urgent need for colorectal surgeons to work with TCM physicians in the continuing research on this 6000-yearold art so as to realize its full potential for our patients.

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Correspondence to F. Seow-Choen.

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Tan, K.Y., Liu, C.B., Chen, A.H. et al. The role of traditional Chinese medicine in colorectal cancer treatment. Tech Coloproctol 12, 1–6 (2008).

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