How to Manage Pain with Intercourse and Vaginal Dryness After Breast Cancer Treatment
- Topical anesthetics may be helpful for patients with severe pain. The most common preparation is 5% lidocaine ointment, which is applied at least one hour prior to intercourse. These anesthetics have no effect on sexual pleasure, however, so over-the-counter lubricants may also be recommended; these include Replens®, K-Y® lubricants, Vagisil®, Astroglide®, Pre-Seed®, Femglide®, and others.
- Low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy may help control vaginal dryness and sexual pain, though their use for breast cancer patients is controversial due to concerns that estrogen may raise risk for recurrence. Some sexually active breast cancer survivors, however, were more comfortable using vaginal estrogen treatment when closely monitored, as this method results in less systemic estrogen absorption than the oral or skin route (patch). There have been no clinical studies showing an adverse effect on survival or recurrence of cancer with vaginal estrogen use in breast cancer survivors. Vagifem® (estradiol vaginal tablets) and Estring® (estradiol vaginal ring) are preferred over vaginal estrogen creams by patients; both agents have demonstrated a 90% improvement in atrophic symptoms.
Active management of sexual dysfunction after breast cancer treatment may further help alleviate symptoms by allowing survivors to enjoy regular sexual activity, which can have its own therapeutic effects: regular sexual activity has been shown to improve vaginal atrophy by stimulating blood flow to the area.
Through their fundraising project, Steppin’ Out, the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) supports research in gynecologic cancer and gynecologic complications of cancer treatment.
Steppin’ Out: A Project to Benefit the GOG’s New Horizons GYN Cancer Research Fund
GOG established the New Horizons GYN Cancer Research Fund to fund worthwhile research projects in gynecologic cancer. Although the GOG receives funding from the National Cancer Institute, many worthy research projects are not undertaken because there is not adequate financial support. The New Horizons GYN Cancer Research Fund will help offset the cost of these projects.
To support the fund, the GOG is launching a program called Steppin’ Out. For a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more, you will receive a sterling-silver high-heel charm. There is also a gold charm available for special order.
Additional information is available at http://www.gog.org/steppinout.html.
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