Postmenopausal women often complain of painful intercourse or lack of desire, caused by decreased levels of estrogen, which affect vaginal elasticity and lubrication. Breast cancer survivors typically have worse symptoms from cancer treatments and there are concerns about hormonal therapies. A new study suggests that fractional CO2 laser therapy could be helpful. The study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
The transition to menopause can expose women to changes in the genitourinary system due to lack of estrogen and subsequent changes in vaginal elasticity, moisture, tissue integrity, and pH. These changes can lead to bothersome vaginal and urinary symptoms, collectively referred to as menopause genitourinary syndrome (GSM).
Although the disease is undiagnosed, it can affect a woman's well-being and sexual function. Breast cancer survivors are even more likely to have GSM due to the effects of chemotherapy and / or endocrine therapy to treat the cancer. An ongoing problem is that many healthcare providers are not addressing GSM as part of survival care for these women. To make matters worse, treatment options for women with breast cancer are more limited due to concerns about using even low-dose vaginal hormone therapies.
Fractional CO2 laser therapy is a hormone-free approach to treating GSM that remodels vulvar and vaginal tissues. Initial results show that the procedure is safe and effective. In this latest study, CO2 laser therapy appears to have fewer sexual function problems during the 4-week follow-up visit. In particular, improvements in sexual function were noted in the areas of desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. The 4-week follow-up visit showed additional improvements in a woman's interest in sex and sexual activity. Although sexual function scores were lower at 1 year than at 4 weeks, indicating that women continued to have sexual problems, they remained significantly improved from baseline. The follow-up will be repeated in 2 years to better identify the long-term effectiveness of the laser therapy.
Photo credit: The North American Menopause Society
Although this new study was small, it provides valuable insight for health care providers treating postmenopausal women, especially postmenopausal women who survive breast cancer. Additional, larger studies will be needed to fully explore the long-term potential of fractional CO2 laser therapy for the treatment of GSM and its associated sexual problems.
The study results appear in the article "Patient-reported sexual function in breast cancer survivors with menopausal urogenital syndrome after fractional CO2 laser therapy."
"This study highlights the problem of sexual dysfunction that affects most breast cancer survivors and the potential role of CO2 laser therapy in the treatment of GSM and related sexual problems. Additional studies are needed to determine long-term safety and effectiveness better understand this therapy. "says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director and one of the study's authors.
Sexual dysfunction affects some women more severely than others as they age
The North American Menopause Society
CO2 laser therapy improves sexual function in postmenopausal women with breast cancer (2021, February 3).
accessed on February 3, 2021
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