One of the major side effects of chemotherapy and endocrine treatment (i.e. Tamoxifen) is unfortunately rarely discussed with women by their physicians. This side effect is all too familiar for women who are post-menopausal. Furthermore, this symptom is what commonly drives post-menopausal women to seek out hormone replacement therapy (which can increase her risk of breast cancer) and even worse, drives women who are receiving endocrine treatment for breast cancer, to discontinue this medication prior to completing the treatment. If you haven’t guessed by now, we are talking about severe vaginal dryness and the negative effects this has for a woman’s sexual health and intimate relationships.
I find myself wondering, if women had an alternative solution to vaginal dryness, would they perhaps forego hormone replacement therapy, and thus not put their breast health at risk? Furthermore, I am willing to bet that if this symptom was avoidable, there would be a substantial number of women who would complete their endocrine therapy (which is typically 5 years). Lastly, for women who undergo chemotherapy, the side effect of vaginal dryness continues well beyond the completion of her treatment. This can last for years or may be permanent.
Why are we not talking about this?
Why are we not doing something about this?
There are emerging technologies that work by increasing blood flow and collagen deposition to restore normal vaginal lubrication and function. These technologies have been adapted from aesthetic energy delivery systems initially used to tighten facial skin and prevent aging. There are a variety of different energy delivery systems (radiofrequency and laser resurfacing) that are used to restore normal function. This may be effective for symptoms associated with normal aging, medication side effects, and childbirth. This procedure may be effective after just a single session or may require a short series of treatments. This procedure is completely painless. The safety and efficacy has been extensively studied and verified in Europe, Asia, and South America. It is currently being evaluated by the FDA and thus incurs an “out-of-pocket” expense for the patient at this time. In the US, this procedure will cost $2500-4000.
Although there are multiple systems available, I personally chose to bring the Geneveve by Viveve into my own practice. This system combines surface cryogen cooling with deep delivery of radiofrequency energy. This cooling of the surface allows the deep tissue to be heated stimulating the body to create additional blood flow and make new collagen. Most patients require one painless 30 minute treatment. There is no downtime and the effects generally become noticeable in just a few weeks with continued improvement over several months. Patients with more severe symptoms sometimes require a series of treatments. For more information check out https://polyclinicplasticsurgery.com/vaginal-rejuvenation/