This information will help you improve your vaginal health after your cancer treatment.
As women age, the vagina becomes dryer and less elastic. This can happen sooner if a woman has had cancer treatments or risk-reducing surgery. Some women can take the hormone estrogen to prevent these changes, but for many women who have had cancer, this may not be a safe choice.
Review the suggestions listed below with your doctor or nurse. Highlight the ones they think are best for you. If they don’t work, ask your doctor or nurse for other suggestions.
Internal Vaginal Moisturizers
Internal vaginal moisturizers are nonhormonal, over-the-counter products. The goal of using them is to increase moisture in the vagina. They can be used several times a week for overall vaginal health and comfort, regardless of sexual activity. Examples include the following:
Vitamin E liquid capsules
- Using a pin, puncture each end of a vitamin E capsule. Insert the capsule into your vagina. Or, you can empty the capsule onto your finger and wipe the vitamin E inside your vagina.
Replens®; Hyalo GYN®
- These are vaginal moisturizers that are inserted into your vagina with an applicator. You may want to put lubricant on the tip of the applicator to make insertion more comfortable.
Carlson® KEY–E Suppositories; K-Y® Brand LIQUIBEADS™
- These are suppositories that are inserted into your vagina with a disposable applicator. You may want to put lubricant on the tip of the applicator to make insertion more comfortable.
These products are available without a prescription in most drug stores or on the Internet. You may need to wear a panty liner while you are using them. If you wear a panty liner, you may want to apply Aquaphor® or a skin protectant cream on your vulva (outside of your vagina), such as Balmex® or Desitin, to help seal in moisture. If you also use vaginal estrogen (see below), do not use it on the same nights you use these moisturizers.
You can use any of these moisturizers 2 to 3 times a week. However, many women will need to moisturize more often (3 to 5 times per week) after cancer treatment or sudden menopause. Apply the moisturizer at bedtime for the best absorption.
External Vaginal Moisturizers
Many women experience dryness or irritation of the vulva. Using an external moisturizer can increase comfort. Natural oils such as vitamin E or coconut oil can be helpful. You can also use Replens® Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer on your vulva.
Vaginal lubricants usually come in a liquid or gel form. They are used to supplement a woman’s own lubrication and minimize dryness and pain during sexual activity. Use these lubricants to make sexual intercourse more comfortable and pleasurable.
Apply the lubricant to the opening of your vagina and to whatever is being placed in or near your vagina, such as an applicator, dilator, finger, object, or a partner’s penis. Examples of lubricants include:
- Eros® Woman Water
- K-Y® Jelly
- Pjur® Woman Bodyglide (a silicone-based lubricant)
- Almond oil
- Coconut oil
Avoid colored, flavored, and warming lubricants, as well as those containing spermicides. Never use Vaseline®. It does not wash away easily and can increase your risk for vaginal infection or irritate your vagina.
You can use vaginal estrogen if your doctor or surgeon says it is safe for you. Be sure to discuss the products described below with your doctor before using them.
- This medication comes in an applicator. Insert it into your vagina at bedtime for 14 days. Then, insert it into your vagina twice a week at bedtime.
There are many products available for enhancing sexuality, such as lubricants and sex toys. These can be purchased over the phone, on the Internet, or from specialty stores. We have listed 2 stores below that are located in New York City. We are not endorsing these stores. Check the Internet for more specialty stores.
Babeland (Soho location)
43 Mercer Street (near Broome Street)
New York, NY 10013
Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm; Sunday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Babeland (Lower East Side location)
94 Rivington Street (between Ludlow and Orchard Streets)
New York, New York 10002
Open Sunday through Wednesday, 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Thursday through Saturday, 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Babeland (Brooklyn location)
462 Bergen St (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Open Monday through Saturday, 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Sunday, 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm
119 West 57th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Suite 1201
New York, NY 10019
Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
More Support and Information About Sexual Health and Intimacy
If you need more support and information about these issues, please talk to your doctor or nurse about the MSKCC Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (646) 888-5076.
The Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program provides services at the following locations:
160 East 53rd Street: Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion
300 East 66th Street: Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center and MSKCC Imaging Center