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Ancient Science of Life, Vol No. I No.

3 January 1982, Pages 172 - 176

CONCEPT OF CANCER IN AYURVEDA

G. C. PRASAD, MANORANJAN SAHU AND P. J. DESHPANDE

Department of Shalya Shalakya, Institute of Medical Sciences,


Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi – 221 005, India.

ABSTRACT: The knowledge and management of the disease, cancer was not unknown to the
ancient surgeons of India. Though the Sanskrit equivalent for this word is not found in
Ayurvedic literature, diseases having the signs and symptoms similar to those of Cancer are
discussed in various contexts. The present paper expounds those diseases with possible
interpretations in modern system of medicine.

The word Cancer is derived from the Greek ulcers. Such swellings or lumps have been
meaning ‘CRAB’ which was used in categorized under the heading of
Medical sciences for long time as mere “ARBUDA”, where as non-leading ulcer as
technical term ‘CANKER’ applied to “ASADHYA VRANA”.
eroding ulcers. This medical use of
synonym was inspired by large number of CLASSIFICATION
prominent veins surrounding a growth
suggesting a picture like claws of a crab. Although the present era of modern medical
sciences has under gone manifold technical
W. R. Belt suggested that the terminology of advancement for the diagnosis and
cancer is used for its adherence with such confirmation by histopathological studies
obstinacy to the part i.e. like a crab and under light and Electronmicroscope, during
cannot be separated from each other. The olden days they had to depend entirely on
identification and differentiation of various clinical symptomatology with Dosha
malignant diseases have been enlightened theory. Considering the various lacunae in
much later than the description available in those days, the malignant diseases may be
ancient Indian literature. Earliest and classified as follows according to the
foremost record could be seen in Atharva description given in different Ayurvedic text
Veda, where the disease was nomenclature books.
as “APACIT”. In the later swelling at
different places in the body. It does not 1. Diseases which can be labeled as clear
mean that ancient Indian clinicians were malignancy.
unaware about the malignant diseases. They
presented their views regarding cancer as a 2. Diseases which may be considered as
swelling superficially or situated in the malignancy.
deeper structure or sometimes as chronic
ulcers. Such swellings or lumps as chronic
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3. Diseases presenting symptoms similar to Thus, it seems justified to postulate that
malignancy. excess of vitiated Kapha in the body might
be responsible for the precipitation of
DISEASES WHICH CAN BE cancer.
LABELLED AS CLEAR
MALIGNANCY Irritation (S. N. 14/3) and trauma (S. N.
11/18) may precipitate or activate the
The diseases falling under this group may formation of Arbuda. Where, for the
be further classified as follows: - enlargement of external genitalia, local
application of certain irritable medicines
(A) Arbuda (Neoplasia) have been advised. More often improper
use or misuse of those drugs i.e. Linga
(B) Asadhya Vrana (Malignant ulcer) Vridhikara Yoga has led to the development
of Mamsarbuda. According to
ARBUDA Susruta, trauma is also considered to be
another causative factor for the development
During Vedic period “ARBUDA” was of Mamsarbuda, where as Vagbhata has
considered as a serpant like demon described that whenever, there is excessive
conquered by Lord Indra (Moniar Williams). formation of Mamsa Dhatu it may lead to
One the other hand literary meaning of various pathological conditions (A. H. Su.
Arbuda is a lump or mass. According to the 11/10), such as Galaganda, Gandamala,
description given by Susruta (S. N. 11/10, Arbuda, Granthi and Adhimamsa. It
11). Arbudas are gradually increasing mass indicates that Mithya Ahara and Mithya
of big size, globular in shape, fixed with Vihara probably changes local or systematic
deeper structure, usually do not suppurate, bio chemical factors (S. N. 11/13) including
giving occasional pain and can occur in any the haemodynamics (S.N. 11/16) leading to
part of the body. It can involve Mamsa and the origin of Arbuda.
Rakta due to vitiation of tridosa.
Classification of Arbuda :
Etiopathogenesis of Arbuda:
These Arbudas may be classified under the
It is based mainly on Dosic theory i.e. Vata, following headings:-
Pitta and Kapha. Further by Mithya Ahara
and Vihara the different humors are vitiated 1. Types of Arbuda according to Dosa.
involving different Dhatus (Mamsa, Meda,
Rakta, etc). resulting in the prescription of 2. Types of Arbuda according to site.
Arubuda.
3. Types of Arbuda according to prognosis.
Though vitiated “Dosa” are responsible for
the development of Arbuda, almost all 4. Types of Arbuda according to Dhatu
Ayurvedic texts have given maximum (tissue).
importance to Kapha. Susruta has
mentioned that due to excess of Kapha,
Arbuda does not suppurate. S. N. 19/15,
which is considered to be the common and
important factor for any growth in the body.
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Arbuda according to dosha: 3. Raktarbuda (blood)

Based on dosas Sushruta has differentiated However, a vivid description is also


the Arbudas into (S. N. 11/25 and S. U. available where Asthi (Bone) has also been
22/9) four types. involved to give rise to swelling like Arbuda
described as ‘Adhyasthi”, but not as
1. Vataja Asthyarbuda. Further Asthi Kshaya if
localized to some particular portion
2. Pittaja resembling pathological fracture or
osteoclastic destructive change in the bone
3. Kaphaja, and may also be included in Asthyarbuda.

4. Tridosaja Types of Arbuda according to sites:

This indicates that probably there are four According to Susruta, Arbuda, can occur at
main doshas or humors playing an important any site or tissue of the body and probably
role after vitiation or derangement which no site is exempted, which cannot give rise
may be low or high in comparison to other to Arbuda. This include eye, ear, nose,
humors to precipitate the malignant growth buccal cavity separately such as
in the body. Extreme divertion of dosa’s, Vartmarbuda (eye lid), Karnarbuda (ear),
may lead to fatality. Such variations in Nasarbuda (Nose), Taluarbuda (Palate),
different types of Arbuda can be diagnosed Jalabuda and Ostharbuda (Lip), Galarbuda
or labeled as Vataja, Pittaja, Kaphaja, based (Throat), Mukharbuda (Buccal mucosa) and
on their symptomatology. Those Arbudas Sirarbuda (Tumors of head or brain).
having mixed symptoms of all the three
humors, can be labeled as tridosaja. Apart from the above mentioned site, genital
However, to establish or label the particular organ has also been included under the
types or dosaja Arbuda, require detailed nomenclature of “Suka Dosa”. This
fundamental advancement in the field of includes two types of Arbuda i.e.
Ayurveda. Mamsarbuda and Sonitarbuda which is
precipitated due to misuse of various types
Arbuda according to dhatu (tissue or of ‘Linga vrddhikar Yoga’.
cells):
Types of Arbuda according to prognosis:
This indicates that ancient Indian clinicians
were aware of the involvement of different Based on the prognosis of the different types
tissue either primarily as local factor or of Arbudas described in Ayurvedic text
generally by derangement of doshic factors. books, they can be placed under two
According to Susruta’s description in categories :
Nidana Sthana, Dhatus are involved in
Arbuda i.e. three types of dhatus. 1. Sadhya

1. Medaja Arbuda (fatty tissue) 2. Asadhya

2. Mamsaja Arbuda (muscular tissue) Most of the Arbuda’ including Mamsarbuda,


Raktarbuda and Tridoshaj of any site
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occurring in ear, nose, throat etc. are Diseases which may be Considered as
considered as Asadhya (incurable). Malignancy
However, some of the Arbudas are also
described as Sadhya which are most This includes particularly those diseases
probably cyst, benign tumours or chronic which are labeled as Asadhya alongwith
inflammatory swelling. certain manifestations similar to
malignancy. Those are Mamsaja Ostha,
Recurrence and metastasis: Alasa, Mamsa Kacchapa, Galaudha,
Asadhya Galaganda, Tridosaja Gulma,
At an interval or period of time of Sadhya Asadhya Vrana, Lingarsa etc.
Arbuda may develop into Asadhya i.e. from
one stage to the other or Asadhya Aruda Mamsaja Ostha: This is an incurable
may give rise to its spread to another place disease of lips which becomes heavy, thick
which may be called as metastatic stage. protruding fleshy mass and developing
Such pathogenesis of malignancy has been ulcers occasionally. Such lesions of the lips
described in Ayurvedic text books as can be considered as exophytic lesion
“Adhyarbuda” or “Dvirarbuda”. This most (Acerman’s Cancer).
probably suggests the recurrence and
metastasis of tumours to distal places. Alasa: Due to vitiation of Rakta and Kapha
there is a deep seated swelling under the
When Arbuda is appearing at preexisting surface of the tongue. It increases gradually
site or nearby primary growth it is called as in size, with fishy odour discharge and
Adhyarbuda (recurrence), whereas when a destroys the surroundings structures. Such
couple of similar types of growth occurring types of diseases resembles Adenocystic and
at different places, following one after Mucoid epidermoid tumours of salivary
another it is called “Dwairbuda” i.e. glands.
metastasis.
Mamsa Kacchapa: Due to vitiation of
Asadhya vrana (malignant ulcers) Kapha, a big swelling develops on the palate
which is painful, increases gradually in size
Asadhya Vrana may be due to a number of and is incurable. This resembles a tumour of
causes and malignancy cannot be ruled out hard palate.
as one of them. Almost all clinical
presentation of different Asadhya Vrana Galaudha: Similar to other diseases this
described by Susruta can be considered diseases develops also due to vitiation of
under malignant ulcers. According to Rakta and Kapha. In this disease an
Susruta these ulcers are chronic in nature extensive swelling occurs in the throat
and depicts with raised or rolled edges, obstructing both the passages of oesophagus
multiple firm fleshy masses similar to and trachea, with the result, that patient
cauliflower type with various types of develops difficulty in swallowing and also in
discharges. Sometimes these ulcers also respiration which becomes fatal to the
presents some general symptomatology i.e. patient. A malignant growth at oropharynx
painful respiration, Anorexia, chronic may give all these symptomatic features.
cough, Cachexia etc. suggesting the stage or
spread of cancer to other places (Metastatis).

Pages 172 - 176


Asadhya Galaganda: Galaganda or Tridosaja Nadi Vrana: S. N.- 10/13:
thyroid enlargement of long duration having These are the chronic discharging sinus
complications like anorexia, weakness, occurring at different places of the body and
hoarseness of voice and not responding to may produce burning sensation, dyspnoea,
prescribed medical therapy may be insomnia, mental confusion with different
considered as carcinoma of thyroid gland. types of discharge and usually this
discharging sinus or nadivrana are found in
Asadhya Gulma: In Asadhya Gulma which the cases of fistula – in – ano, chronic osteo
are gradually increasing in size, wide myelitis, actinomycosis etc. Though
spreaded and fixed with tortoise like mass in diseases are not malignant but many times a
the abdomen, the skin over mass shows carcinoma of the anal canal may produce a
engorged veins. In addition, patient may similar symptomatology.
suffer cachexia, cough, vomiting, fever etc.
These features are probably suggestive of Asadhya Pradara – Madhavana – 61 / 4,
intra abdominal malignant growth. 5: This is the condition where excessive
vaginal discharge of various colour,
Asadhya Udara Roga: When ascitis is consistency and odour are observed. Patient
associated with flank pain, marked anorexia, gradually loses her appetite, weight and
sometimes diarrhea, weakness and become emaciated. Such symptomatology
reappearance of fluid after aspiration it may be considered as carcinoma of the
resembles malignant ascitis. uterus.

Lingarsa: Vitiated dosa lodged in the Asadhya Kamala – Madhavan – 8/19. 20:
external genetalis affect the local This is the condition where a gradually
musculature etc. and give rise to itching increasing jaundice with or without pain is
which gradually become ulcerated. These observed and has been described as an
ulcers give rise to the growth of fleshy mass Asadhya Roga. Though such conditions can
with blood discharge. Such be observed in chronic cirrhosis or due to
symptomatology closely resembles a obstructive path in biliary tract, such as
papillary carcinoma. impaction of stone is common bile duct etc.
But these conditions are not malignant.
Diseases Where Malignancy cannot be However, similar symptomatology can also
ruled out be considered or manifests in malignancy of
the biliary tract or head of the pancreas or in
Apart from the various factors mentioned carcinoma liver, obstructing biliary out flow
earlier, there are certain other to duodenum.
symptomatology or the diseases which are
also considered as ‘Asadhya’ and labeling All these studies indicate the awareness of
them under malignancy seems to be a malignancy during ancient Indian /
controversial subject. However, it is also Clinicians period including its
difficult to rule out the possibilities of etiopathogenesis, types, sites, stages and
malignancy based on their sign and spread. It also supports the views that
symptoms. Those diseases are Tridoshaja solution of etiopathogenesis can be studied
Nadi Vrana, Asadhya Pradar a Asadhya in detail by enlightening the Dosa, and
Kamala and Carmakila etc. Dhatu. In addition the study on prakrti of
these cases in relation to various Dhatu’s
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factors, may enable to find out some definite concept of management of this diseases in
pathogenesis and criteria of diagnosis (under Ayurveda. A detailed study on this aspect
study). Apart from this an elaborate may give new light to the suffering
description is also available regarding the humanity throughout the world.

BIBILLIOGRAPHY:

1. Susruta samhita

2. Vagbhata

3. Caraka samhita

4. Madhavanidana

Pages 172 - 176