Cancer and Menopause

By Constadina Zarokostas-Vasiliades

First Published at:  – on March 18, 2014

I attended a seminar at the most popular Herbal Shop in the Mid-West USA, Cheryl’s Herbs, that focused on Natural Support For Cancer Recovery.  I was amazed at the amount of women that were attending and were going through both some stage of menopause and either recovering from cancer or fighting cancer. Others had a friend or family member going through both menopause and cancer and wanted more information. The key link between menopause and cancer was estrogen levels in the body, and how lifestyle and diet can regulate estrogen levels to make going through cancer recovery and menopause not only more tolerable, but less stressful on the body.  The following is what I learned.

In managing one’s lifestyle the first step is managing stress.  Long-term stress, whether in our jobs, relationships, or home environments, will eventually take its toll on our bodies.  The up and down fluctuations in our hormones, particularly estrogen levels, that occur from stress can eventually lead to disease or illness.  Manage your stress by exercising regularly, meditate, participate in prayer, and reach deep down inside yourself to forgive those who have disappointed you in the past instead of harboring resentment.

If your family has a history of cancer, particularly estrogen based or reproductive cancers, it is crucial that you maintain optimum balance of your hormones and have your estrogen levels checked annually.  According to Dr. Lauren Streicher, Gynecologist, two indicators of estrogen based cancer that often gets mixed up with menopause symptoms are an erratic monthly period, and the loss of PMS signals.

Diet and managing one’s weight is one of the many highly recommended lifestyle changes advised to maintain estrogen levels before menopause hits, and also help to cope with cancer and cancer recovery. When you are overweight your body normally contains excess estrogen levels. Studies have shown that when you are overweight these excess estrogen levels can cause a woman to have a greater chance to contract uterine cancer.  When women contract reproductive cancers such as uterine, ovarian or endometrial, chances are a hysterectomy or the removal of the affected reproductive organ may be necessary. Women that have received oophorectomy [bilateral removal of the ovaries] during their hysterectomy are often referred to as surgical/induced menopause.

(Reference: )

Eliminating things from your lifestyle that can disrupt your hormones is one way of preventing cancer.  When the liver is over-burdened by toxins in our food and health products, prolonged use of birth control, hormones in animal products that we eat, BPA found in our hygiene products being absorbed through our skin, can all feed estrogen-based cancers due to the estrogen fluctuations they trigger in the body.

A diet rich in dark leafy greens, whole grains, small amounts of meat and dairy, and the removal of sugar and raw vegetable diets is encouraged when hormone levels are off and one is recovering from estrogen-based cancers. Also avoid soy based products unless they are fermented like miso and tempeh. (Ref. book: Treating Cancer with Herbs, by Dr. Michael Tierra) According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as Ayurvedic medicine, eating Kichari (aka Kicharee), is considered one of the safest and most healing medicinal foods because it’s combination of the five flavors activates the internal organ process. When referencing the book, The Way of Chinese Herbs,by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., N.D., AHG, what this means is it turns food into energy that will benefit the lungs and spleen [TCM energetic spleen and not western medical physiology spleen], help the liver to detoxify, encourage the blood and qi-circulating properties, and help prevent stagnation and relieve pain.  (Recipe for Kichari provided at the end of this article).

The use of herbs as supplements while going through both cancer and one of the stages of menopause can help diminish symptoms and provide a better quality of life during cancer recovery.  According to Cheryl Hoard, the owner of Cheryl’s Herbs and host of the seminar I attended, making teas out of some of these herbs and incorporating them in your food (like the cooking of beans and/or rice) can also add a little extra help. Adaptogenic Herbs (aka Tonic Herbs in TCM) can help with the chemical stress to the body like chemotherapy and radiation. They are healing, protective, detoxify the liver, and enhance the body’s resistance to these stressors. Some of these herbs that can be used on a daily basis as a tea or in extract form include:




Dandelion:      Particularly effective for breast cancer recovery as it’s high vitamin A content helps prevent Anemia. See my article: Spring Clean Your Body and Balance Your Hormones With a Little Dandelion

Eleuthro (Siberian Ginsing)

Holy basil


Goji berry: Helps during chemotherapy by protecting the toxic effects on the body.

Red sage




Caster Oil Packs are a very old method of healing, but are also known to help those who are recovering from various types of cancer, including breast cancer. According to Dr. William A. McGarey, some have seen results of decreased cancer cells after use on the affected area, and in some cases even the decrease in tumors, fibroids, and scar tissue after surgery.  It is most effective when using it with wool flannel cloth.

Alterative Herbs for cancer, according to TCM, are herb and herb combinations that help remove the heat from the body of people who are fighting cancer.  Some of these referenced in the seminar include:

Essiac Formula – An herb combination originally developed by Canada’s Ojibwa Native Indians and handed to Nurse Rene M. Caisse, who altered it slightly to help her patients recover from cancer.

Lapacho – Helpful in strengthening the immune system.

Hoxey Formula, (aka Hoxey Extract Combination depending on where you live in North America) – Believed to be a blood purifier and help elimination of toxins from the organs allowing the body to absorb nutrients of food easier.

Mushroom Power – Five to six mushroom combinations, featuring rishi and shitaki, that have an anti-cancer, anti-tumor effect, as well as immune system boosting.

Single herbs helpful in cancer recovery include:  Cat’s Claw, Licorice (Slows progression of estrogen based cancers), Milk Thistle (Detoxifies the liver), Red Clover (Controversial for breast cancer, but said to be effective), Slippery Elm powder (Can dissolve or soften tumors), Violet Leaf (Well-known anti-cancer herb with high vitamin A content).

It is best that you don’t use more than three of these single herbs at one time, and talk to your doctor or health practitioner to see if any of the suggested herbal supplements or supplement combinations would be appropriate to take during your individual cancer therapy.

Overall, having a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer from developing, but even if you do develop cancer and you happen to also be going through one of the stages of menopause, the key is making lifestyle changes to help balance your estrogen levels.  Detoxifying your body with clean foods, exercise, herbal supplements, and looking after yourself mentally and spiritually all contribute to the body’s ability to have the strength to overcome cancer and harsh cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.


Disclaimer: This article was not meant to prescribe, but to inform.  Consult your family physician and/or health practitioner before taking herbal supplements.


KICHARI: BASIC RECIPE: (Taken From Michael Tierra’s book, The Way of Chinese Herbs)

Mung Beans:                                       1 Cup

Brown Rice:                                        1 Cup

Rock or dechlorinated sea salt:           ½ – 1 Teaspoon

Coriander seeds (finely ground):        1 Tablespoon

Cumin seeds (finely ground):                         1Tablespoon

Turmeric Root Powder:                      1 Tablespoon

Ghee or Sesame Oil:                           1 Tablespoon

Water:                                                 3 – 4 Cups, depending on desired thickness

Cook the mung beans and rice together (In water or an herb broth).  Sauté the salt and spices in ghee (clarified butter) or sesame oil until they achieve a fine odor and flavor.  Stir in the mung beans and rice and serve.


References on cancer, lifestyle and herbs:


Treating Cancer with Herbs, by Michael Tierra

The Way of Chinese Herbs, by Michael Tierra

Adaptogens, by Winston & Maimes

Breast Cancer? Breast Health, by Susan Weed

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky

The Edgar Cayce Remedies, by William A. McGarey, M.D.


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