Breast Cancer Survivors Can Boost Quality of Life While Taking
Estrogen Lowering Medications
Breast cancer treatments or surgery to remove the ovaries typically lower estrogen, which causes feminine dryness. Medications often used to treat breast cancer called aromatase inhibitors block androgens produced from the adrenal glands from being converted into estrogen. The adrenal glands account for about one-fourth of a woman’s estrogen production. All of this estrogen lowering often brings side effects, and one of them is vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness may seem like a small worry compared to a life-threatening illness such as cancer but what seems like a trivial side effect can make a woman’s life miserable. Quality of life can be hampered with vaginal dryness causing severe side effects ranging from irritation in simply walking, to discomfort with intercourse, to cracking and bleeding of the vaginal tissues.
Along with the amazing treatments available, women can also benefit from improved comfort and quality of life by using over-the-counter products that can be found in their local drugstore or online shopping cart.
Many cancer survivors avoid sex because it can be a very painful experience. Cancer hospital M.D. Anderson reports, “Women can use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant during sex or use a vaginal moisturizer to counter dryness or tightness in the vagina caused by cancer treatment. If the lubricants and moisturizers don’t help, another option is low-dose vaginal estrogen. For women who have had radiation therapy to the pelvic region, a vaginal dilator can reduce vaginal scarring or shrinking.”
A good silicone lubricant like Wet ® Platinum ® Premium Lubricant or Replens Silky Smooth should be used just before and during sex because cancer, surgery, and treatments can affect intercourse, causing side effects like difficulty with arousal, loss of desire, and inability to achieve orgasm. A silicone lube can make sex enjoyable again and reduce the chances of abrasion.
The outside of the vagina (or the vulva) can also be irritated, itchy and painful. Neogyn Feminine Soothing Cream is a specially designed formula that immediately rejuvenates vulvar cells, heals damage and reduces pain. Aquaphor is terrific to heal sores from radiation, dry lips, etc.
Soul Source dilators provide vaginal physical therapy to help manage some of the side effects of chemotherapy by gently stretching the vaginal tissue, gradually making it more elastic and flexible over time. Remember, if you are using a silicone dilator, you want to use a paraben-free water-based lube.
Vaginal dryness can occur at any age under many circumstances, and its effects vary from minor discomfort to chronic pain. Gynecologists around the world are recognizing the need for women to find safe, effective solutions to commonly recurring problems that are readily available at their local stores and online. If you have pressing questions about women’s health and menopause that you would like answered, join me at www.AskDrSeibel.com.
By Dr. Machelle Seibel, Ob/Gyn & Author of The Estrogen Window