By: Ann T. Warren, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology

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If you are like many breast cancer patients, you have had adjunctive hormonal therapy which may have put you into menopause at an early age. The unfortunate side effect of this necessary therapy may be severe vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy means that the vaginal and, often times vulvar, areas have become very thinned and dry. This means uncomfortable and frequently painful sex. Many women are often reluctant to talk about this and may think that this problem is unique to them. Please – do not suffer in silence any longer as there are many therapies available to cure this problem.

Traditional therapies have involved estrogen creams or pills inserted into the vagina. While these often times will be effective, it does involve introducing a hormone which many patients are very uncomfortable using. While often felt to be safe, there may be a significant mental duress that comes with estrogen therapy. After all – many patients have just been told that estrogen is involved with their breast cancer and now they are using to maintain a health sex life.

Touch laser has been used in Italy for years and has made its way to the US in the past 18 months. The therapy involves 3 treatments in the gynecologist’s office. The laser is inserted into the vagina and the treatment takes only 5 minutes . The laser puts miniscule holes into the vaginal wall which stimulates the cells that make collagen to start producing collagen again. When this happens, the vaginal walls will thicken and also make more lubrication. Recent data has suggested that patients find more improvement if the vulvar skin is also treated for the second and third treatment. This involves the application of a small amount of local anesthetic cream to the vulvar area. The patient will then wait for its effect to take place – typically 25 minutes spent relaxing in the office – and then the external area is treated in about 3 minutes without any discomfort. The recovery is minimal with some patients noting vulvar itching or a sunburn feeling for 2-5 days. The studies show that over 85% of patients are very comfortable with sex after the completion of the treatment series. Many patients will repeat a “booster” of one combined vaginal and vulvar treatment every 12-18 months going forward.

Breast cancer is difficult enough. Please do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about this new revolutionary therapy. You don’t have to give up sexual intimacy as a side effect of your cancer treatments. You can get more information about this exciting new therapy at