“My oncologist never spoke with me about any of the sexual side effects I might experience while being treated with Tamoxifen,” shares Sydney, a 46-year-old breast cancer survivor. “I was completely unprepared for the intense vaginal dryness it caused and how painful attempting to have intercourse with my husband would be,” she continues. “I felt so frustrated, alone, and almost like cancer had stripped me of my sexual identity.”
Advancements in the way we both diagnose, and treat, breast cancer have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. As a result, each year thousands of women enter remission and proudly identify themselves as breast cancer survivors. But, for many of these women, a new battle looms on the horizon which can severely impact their intimate health and intimacy with their partners.
In a recent survey, more than two-thirds of interviewed survivors reported difficulty and pain with sexual function more than two years after diagnosis. In most cases, the potential of these symptoms was never discussed with these patients by their oncology team as potential side effects of cancer treatment. But now, more women are speaking up, and as a result, new treatment options have been developed to help alleviate these symptoms and help women enjoy sex again after breast cancer.
“I encourage all of my patients to view their brains as their most sophisticated and important sexual organ,” says Dr. Lisa Erhard, a board-certified OB/GYN of over 25 years. “This is an especially important mindset for the female breast cancer survivor to adopt,” she continues. “If a woman has had a mastectomy, she may have a very difficult time reclaiming her sexual identity due to the changes in her body,” Dr. Lisa says. “When you add in the potential side effects of a cancer treatment drug like Tamoxifen, it just escalates the difficulty of the situation,” she continues. “Unfortunately, many of my patients who are breast cancer survivors tell me that I’m the first physician they felt comfortable openly discussing how these symptoms were affecting their sex lives and self-confidence,” says Dr. Lisa shaking her head. “The medical community needs to start the conversation about how common sexual dysfunction is after cancer and what we can do about it!”
As Dr. Lisa mentioned, many of the commonly prescribed treatments specific to breast cancer, such as the drug Tamoxifen, may help eradicate cancer, but come with a host of adverse side effects. These symptoms can range from headaches and mood swings to intense vaginal dryness, loss of libido, and painful sex. It’s no wonder that many women abstain from sex with their partners and are left feeling isolated and frustrated.
Thankfully, some new and exciting advancements in laser technology are showing promising results in treating these symptoms. In turn, they are encouraging breast cancer patients and survivors to start the conversation with their physicians about sexual dysfunction. The intent of these lasers focuses on regenerating the thinned lining of the vaginal walls and increasing vaginal circulation to enhance lubrication, vascularity, and tissue thickening. MonaLisa Touch® was the first to gain FDA-Approval to treat this vaginal atrophy commonly found in breast cancer survivors.
“The MonaLisa Touch® treatments I had at Wayzata Cosmetic Surgery & Spa with Dr. Lisa have changed my life after breast cancer,” shares Sydney. “I felt like Dr. Lisa was the first physician who listened to me, validated my concerns, and reawakened my hope that I would be able to enjoy a romantic relationship with my husband again,” she continues. “I think a lot of survivors out there don’t talk about their symptoms because they think they should just sit back and feel lucky that they beat cancer, but I wanted to continue with a life that was full of love and intimacy with my husband,” said Sydney. “MonaLisa Touch® and Dr. Lisa made that possible again!”
MonaLisa Touch® treatments take only five minutes to perform. It is an in-office procedure performed by a physician or a designated physician extender. During your treatment, the small cylinder-shaped laser is inserted gently into the vaginal canal, and controlled CO2 energy is delivered directly to the vaginal walls. MonaLisa Touch® fast, painless, non-surgical, and non-hormonal. These characteristics are especially important for women after breast cancer who may be avoiding estrogen. MonaLisa Touch® is recommended in a series of 3 treatments spaced six weeks apart. Annual maintenance is advised to keep the vaginal lining in optimal condition and health.
“MonaLisa Touch® uses laser energy to resurface the vaginal wall and deeply stimulate the production of new, underlying collagen,” explains Dr. Lisa. “As a result, your body commences a wound healing process that builds up collagen production and regenerates tissue,” she continues. “Most patients notice an increase in vaginal moisture within one treatment and a significant decrease in pain during intercourse after three treatments as tissue regenerates and becomes more resilient.”
“Many of my patients experience a complete cessation of painful symptoms and vaginal dryness after their course of treatments. I am still in awe that we can accomplish these results without surgery, hormone therapy, or downtime. MonaLisa Touch® has truly changed the lives of many of the breast cancer survivors I treat, and I feel so grateful to be able to offer it,” Dr. Lisa says smiling.