- Question from Scarlett: I am 39 years old and have completed five chemo treatments (I'll have 24 total). What can I expect from menopause? I'm concerned, as I always had a healthy sex life. I've noticed vaginal dryness lately. Is this a temporary condition while on chemo or is this something I will need to learn to live with?
Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D.
The likelihood is at 39 that the menopause may be permanent, although some women may still recover menstrual cycles. The vaginal dryness is one of the main symptoms that you may notice along with hot flashes. Not every woman has a change in desire because of menopause, but some women do feel that their desire for sex is reduced. One of the most important keys to staying sexually active is to use a good lubricant so that intercourse does not become painful and uncomfortable. There are many lubricants available either at drugstores or over the Internet. Some of the ones that women like include Astroglide, K-Y Liquid or K-Y Silk-E or a lubricant called SYLK that comes from New Zealand and contains extraction of kiwi fruit vine.
Women who have severe dryness may also want to try a vaginal moisturizer like Replens. These products are different from a water-based lubricant. They are gels that come in a tampon-type applicator and must be used three times a week, usually before bedtime. They help keep the vaginal lining moist all the time and only get their full effect after you use them for around 6-8 weeks. Unfortunately, they can be expensive and are not covered by insurance because they are over-the-counter products.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. Gynecologists often have a good supply of Replens samples. Make sure you ask for a bunch to help you get started.
- Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D. When you are using a lubricant, it is important to make sure if you are having intercourse that both the entrance to the vagina and the head of your partner's penis are well-lubricated, so that penetration goes smoothly and does not set up a cycle of tightness and pain.
- Debra Thaler-DeMers Using lubrication before intercourse can be part of your foreplay, where you would lubricate your partner and he would lubricate you.
- Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D. It is helpful to keep your lubricant right by the bed or wherever you are making love and not to hide it in the bathroom so that you have to get up to put more on.
On Wednesday, February 20, 2002, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Intimacy, Sex and Your Love Life. Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D., Debra Thaler-DeMers, R.N., O.C.N., P.H.N., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to improve your sex life during and after breast cancer treatment.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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