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Pelvic Radiation Therapy

A woman’s sex life and vaginal health may be adversely affected by cancer radiation therapy to the pelvic area. The scarring that occurs after pelvic radiation can shorten or even narrow the vagina. Many women that receive radiation treatments experience early symptoms of menopause or even stop having menstrual periods. Other side effects include vaginal burning, itching and dryness. This can make sexual intercourse painful, and makes it difficult and uncomfortable for women to have pelvic exams in the future.

Many doctors recommend that women start vaginal dilator physical therapy after finishing radiation treatments.  Regular use of dilators can often help women stretch the walls of their vagina, and help prevent scar tissue from forming.  Some cancer centers also recommend that women use a vaginal moisturizer prior to using a dilator.  When a woman’s vagina has moisture, the vaginal walls will stretch more easily during dilator therapy.

Since scarring after pelvic radiation therapy can develop over many years, vaginal dilators can be a good tool for a woman to use throughout her life. Even if she is not sexually active, regular use vaginal dilators can help to make future pelvic exams less painful.

Did you know?

  • Nearly two-thirds of all cancer patients will receive radiation therapy during their illness
  • 85% of women undergoing pelvic radiation therapy have low or no sexual interest
  • 35% of them experience moderate to severe lack of lubrication
  • In most cases, sexual activity is resumed 2 or 3 months after the treatment