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Managing Menopausal Symptoms in the Cancer Survivor

Managing Menopausal Symptoms in the Cancer Survivor

I prefer to call cancer survivors cancer conquerors. I find conqueror to be a far better term…we want to conquer a deadly disease and thrive over it not simply survive it.

Menopause is a time in a woman’s life cycle.  Technically it is not a disease. However, the symptoms of menopause can devastate a woman’s life and her relationships. The occurrence of menopause also increases risk factors for other diseases such as heart disease, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, chronic urinary tract infections, and cancer.

Some women go into menopause naturally and others are thrown into menopause via surgical intervention from the removal of the uterus and ovaries.

Surgical menopause is more of a shock to the body and usually results in rapid onset and increased severity of menopause symptoms.

Conventional Approach

Once a woman has had the diagnosis of cancer than the conventional system becomes more focused on the management of “cancer the disease” then they are on the management of her menopausal symptoms. This is for two main reasons. Conventional medicine treats disease. Cancer is a life threatening disease. Menopause is technically not a disease and not life threatening. By this very simple hierarchy this decreases menopausal symptoms on the doctors list of concerns. The second reason is that conventional medicine treats most disease with drugs and surgery. There are very few non-hormonal drugs or surgical treatments that offset the symptoms of menopause.

Additionally, if a woman is taking medications like Tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for the recommended 5-year term those will exacerbate menopausal symptoms.

It is important to note that conventional doctors do not receive any training in nutrition. They are not taught about food or natural medicines. They are only trained in the diagnosis and screening of disease and in using the treatments of pharmaceutical drugs and surgery.

When a cancer conqueror leaves her conventional doctor’s office she may feel discouraged because her doctor did not address her concerns, or she may feel hopeless because her doctor told her she was lucky to be alive and she should just “deal with” her symptoms, or she will walk out with a prescription for an SSRI(anti-depressant). She may or may not be given a recommendation for a non-hormonal vaginal lubricant depending on weather vaginal pain or atrophy was a concern of hers.

Integrative Approach

The integrative approach has a lot more to offer the menopausal cancer conqueror. This is the case for multiple reasons.

The first reason is lack of toxicity. Natural therapies for menopause support normal body function, unlike prescription medications there are little to no side effects or toxic byproducts that the body has to handle.

The second reason is time. The integrative physician has more time to listen to a woman’s concerns and take her entire history and life story into account before making any recommendations.

The third reason involves treatment options.  The integrative physician is trained in both drug therapies and natural remedies. Mother nature provides many choices. Most are safe, non-hormone based, and promote health. This is good for treating the symptom but also good at treating the woman in general.  Since the selection of natural remedies is vast; choices can range from foods and herbal teas to essential oils, homeopathy, natural lubricants, standardized extracts of herbs, as well as vitamins and minerals.

Each woman’s treatment plan will be a little different. This is because there are no two women alike. Each woman has her own unique story, symptoms, and needs. An effective treatment plan takes all of these into consideration. Additionally, as part of the comprehensive intake, an evolving long term plan will be recommended to screen for and prevent her risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, cognitive health, and urinary health. These are the most common diseases that can develop in and around menopause that were mentioned above.

I really don’t understand why the health industry doesn’t communicate with the food industry or why the food industry fails to communicate with the health industry. It leaves a great divide in communication between doctors and patients. This is especially since plants are rich with compounds that ease suffering and support healing. This is true in the case of menopause and especially needed in the cancer conqueror who requires as much support as possible to minimize symptoms and regain health. 

I know that getting and having cancer is scary. I know that conquering cancer is a triumph. I also know that sometimes we need to go outside the box to find what we are looking for. I wrote this blog post while I was sitting at an MD convention surrounded by over 2,000 conventional doctors. I became inspired to write this after I had sat through a lecture on menopause. There was absolutely nothing discussed other than synthetic hormone-based prescription medications. The presenting physician repeatedly stated that nothing other than what was on her list was FDA approved to help with menopausal symptoms. At one point I simply laughed out loud.

That got me thinking about cancer conquerors and how this particular physician would address menopausal concerns in that patient base. I cringed to think of that interaction. Yikes!

Drug companies make money off of drugs that they patent and then get approved by the FDA. Natural substances can’t be patented or approved by the FDA. In the eyes of conventional medical dogma things must be researched and patented and approved by the FDA. In reality the FDA is only approving man-made or synthetically made things. Not God-made things.

Do we all need a patent on our chamomile tea to let us know that it has relaxing benefits? Should we run some more studies on sweet potato to see if it’s safe to eat? At some point perusing a natural approach to health just makes the most sense.

I know for a fact that natural medicines work to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. They work safely and effectively, there is research, a lot of it, real studies conducted the same way they are done on drugs. The research shows medicinal value and risks that are far fewer than they are with patented drugs. The reason you never hear about them is because there is no big pharma of the natural world. There is little money to be made on nature’s bounty. So the burden falls on you to educate yourself and decide if natural medicine is the next best step for you.

In Service,

Dr. Purcell

Dr. Andrea Purcell

A trusted and well-respected Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Purcell has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Purcell is a published author and has a women’s specialty practice for hormone balancing, weight loss, mystery illness, and gastro-intestinal concerns. Dr. Purcell assists her patients by identifying the underlying cause of disease and removing obstacles that impede the body's natural ability to heal. Drugs and surgery are used as a last resort. She believes that increasing health on the inside shines through to the outside.


  • Renee Boylan says:

    Hi Andrea Can you call me I am having a tough go of it with menopause. I would like to do something about it.

  • Fulya says:

    Thank you for taking the time out to inform woman about alternative solutions. We need more holistic docs like you!

    Fulya Paz

  • michelle bachand says:

    so true! thank you for all you do ox

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