This information will help you improve your vulvar and vaginal health after your cancer treatment.
As women age, the vulva (outside of the vagina) and vagina become dryer and less elastic. This can happen sooner if a woman has had cancer treatments or cancer 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.
Below are some suggestions to help you manage these symptoms. Review them 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.
Vaginal moisturizers are nonhormonal, over-the-counter products. They help to increase moisture in your vagina. They can be used several times a week for overall vaginal health and comfort, regardless of sexual activity. Some examples are:
- 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® Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer; Hyalo GYN®
- These are vaginal moisturizers 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.
- 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 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.
You may need to wear a panty liner while you are using these moisturizers. If you wear a panty liner, you may want to apply Aquaphor® or a skin protectant cream such as Balmex® or Desitin, on your vulva, 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.Back to top
Many women experience dryness or irritation of the vulva. Using a 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, HyaloGyn, or both on your vulva. If you are using both, make sure to use them on different nights.Back to top
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. Examples of lubricants include:
- K-Y Jelly
- Good Clean Love (organic)
- Pjur® Original Bodyglide (a silicone-based lubricant)
- Almond oil
- Coconut oil
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 your partner’s penis.
Avoid colored, flavored, and warming lubricants, as well as those containing spermicides. Never use petroleum jelly (Vaseline®). It does not wash away easily and can increase your risk for vaginal infection or irritate your vagina.Back to top
You can use vaginal estrogen if your doctor or surgeon says it is safe for you to do so. Be sure to discuss the products described below with your doctor or surgeon before using them.
- This medication comes in an applicator. Insert it into your vagina at bedtime for 14 days. After 14 days, insert it into your vagina twice a week at bedtime.
- This medication comes as a vaginal ring. Insert the ring into your vagina and push it as far back as possible. Remove it after 90 days.
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, as well as a few websites. We are not endorsing these stores or websites. Check the Internet for more specialty stores.
More Support and Information about Sexual Health and Intimacy
If you need more support and information about these issues, please talk with your doctor or nurse about Memorial Sloan Kettering’s (MSK) 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:
- 300 East 66th Street: Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center
- 160 East 53rd Street: Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion