A diagnosis of cancer is devastating. And after the initial shock has worn off then the questions begin. And at some point, those questions will likely turn to sex. But like so many questions we have around our sexuality, it's not always easy to ask the questions… and then to get straightforward answers.
Which is why this Nutramedica program is focused on women's sexuality, specifically during and after cancer treatment. Our guide today is Dr Judith Boice. Dr Boice, who has been in practice for 27 years, is a physician, an international best-selling author and an award-winning educator.
Implications of a Cancer Diagnosis
A diagnosis of cancer can be a call to action - and a great reset. A cancer diagnosis can affect the emotional health of patients and families. Common feelings during this life-changing experience include anxiety, distress, and depression. Roles at home and work can be affected. Not least of which are changes in sexuality and the nature of our intimate relationships.
Cancer and Sexuality
Patients are often preoccupied with facing their mortality for the first time. However, it is important that patients and their partners discuss their intimate relationship and the impact that the diagnosis may have on their sexuality.
Initially, it may only be the patient who feels comfortable broaching the subject with their doctor, but ideally their partner should be part of the discussion.
For couples who struggle with communication, a cancer diagnosis is either going to force them to start communicating or make it even more difficult for them to do so.
Generally, if there is no talking going on, there is probably no sex going on either. So, practitioners should not be afraid to open up the discussion.
One of the key symptoms of a cancer diagnosis and treatment is fatigue. If a person does not have enough core vitality even to take care of the vital organs, there is nothing left over to go into their reproductive system. Countering fatigue in your cancer patient is the first step to rebuilding lives.
Another challenge is pain. Physical pain can make intercourse very difficult. Also, women can suffer with body dysmorphia after breast cancer surgery. All of these issues are sensitive and impact sexuality.
Women and couples can fail to understand that they may lose fertility through cancer treatment. With some cancer treament women experience early onset menopause and all of its attednent symptoms, including genital urinary syndrome.
Because people go into shock with the cancer diagnosis, ideally those discussions need to happen before they begin treatment so they understand how radiation may affect their fertility and their vaginal health.
Naturopathic physicians have effective treatments to offer women who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Water based lubricants (free of glycerin) are effective for vaginal health. Vitamin E suppositories and coconut oil, as well as Kegel exercises and gradual stretching exercises, are useful for women with vaginal stenosis.
More leading-edge approaches include radiofrequency devices. These devices can also treat the external perineal region and can be important for women. However, these devices can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
Microdosing Estrogen Estradiol
We are now going through a revolution in understanding about how estrogen can be used to restore vaginal tissues. New evidence suggests that doses of 50 micrograms, even with 7.5 micrograms, can be effective in women recovering from cancer.
Although not for women who have had reproductive cancers, these microdosing approaches may be appropriate for survivors of other forms of cancer.
Essential Oils and Natural Products
Research shows the effectiveness of fennel, particularly using this botanical as a cream of 5% fennel.
Geranium and lavender have shown some promise in addressing vaginal dryness.
“It used to be tuberculosis that triggered “the great awakening” but now it's cancer. So, for many people everything is up for reevaluation at this point in their lives.” Dr Judith Boice
“I ask patients about communication with their partner, because to expect a couple to be deeply physically sexually intimate without them also having other levels of communication happening, is very difficult." Dr Judith Boice
The opinions expressed in this Nutramedica program are those of the guests and contributors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Nutritional Fundamentals For Health Inc.
This video is intended for licensed or registered health professionals and students of health professions only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Information contained in these programs are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.