A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that just over a quarter of women who undergo cervical cancer treatment suffer unpleasant side effects that can lead to sexual difficulties.
The study surveyed more than 600 women aged 26 to 80, 256 of which were cancer survivors. Twenty-six percent of women who received treatment for cervical cancer reported suffering from insufficient elasticity of the vagina, a shortened vagina, bleeding or pain during intercourse, and inadequate lubrication and genital swelling during arousal. Women who did not receive cervical cancer treatment reported these difficulties in much lower numbers.
Treatment for cervical cancer often damages nerves and small vessels in the vagina, and can cause scarring, leading to feelings of vaginal shortness or inelasticity. The problems of inadequate lubrication and genital swelling during arousal are likely caused by hormonal changes.
Lead study author Dr. Karin Bergmark of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden recommended, “Physicians caring for women with cervical cancer should discuss possible disease- and treatment-related vaginal changes that may affect sexual function and should address this topic before and after treatment.”