Vaginal care and radiotherapy  

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Radiotherapy may cause scarring, narrowing and dryness of the vagina. Likewise some drugs such as the aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer can cause vaginal dryness  (letrozole, anastrozole, exemestane). This can make it difficult for your doctor to examine you at follow-up appointments and can make normal sexual intercourse difficult.


To help minimize this problem you have been given a dilator kit. This kit contains a range of plastic tubes of various sizes which dilate or stretch the vagina. This helps the muscles of the vagina to relax. The kit also contains a cleaning brush that can be used to clean the dilators after use.

You will also be given a tube of lubricating cream. In postmenopausal women oestrogen creams and pesseries may help but ask your doctor first if this is safe if you have breast cancer. These will help to keep the lining of your vagina moist and supple.

We recommend that you start using the dilators one to two weeks after the end of all your radiotherapy treatment, as long as any soreness has begun to settle down. The dilators should be used every other day initially and then every third day after six months.

Once you are sexually active again the dilators need not be used on the days that you have sexual intercourse.

Slight bleeding or spotting may occur during intercourse or after using the dilators during the first few weeks. However, if the bleeding persists or is unduly heavy, do not hesitate to contact your doctors or specialist radiographer.

Using a vaginal dilator

1.Place the lubricating cream on the rounded end of the dilator.

2. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent or stand with one foot on the bath or on a stool.

3. Insert the dilator gently as far as is comfortable. Withdraw and reinsert the dilator several times for a total of five minutes.

4.Clean the dilator with warm soapy water.


Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.


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