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What is Sexual Pain after a Vulvectomy or Hysterectomy?

Gynaecological cancer treatment can cause sexual issues for women, depending on whether they undergo surgery or receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy. We refer to these issues as sexual dysfunction. Sexual pain after vulvectomy or sexual pain after hysterectomy can be one type of dysfunction. Some women experience sexual pain as a result of surgery or therapy. But some women also experience sexual numbness rather than pain. At Sydney Pelvic Clinic, we often meet women who are experiencing pain or the lack of sensitivity after gynaecological cancer treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Sexual Pain Post Gynaecological Cancer Treatment?

The symptoms of sexual dysfunction following a vulvectomy or hysterectomy link to a mixture of emotional and physical changes.

Physical and emotional symptoms include:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Loss of vaginal sensation
  • Loss of sexual sensitivity around the vulva
  • Sexual pain
  • Reduced vaginal elasticity
  • Thinning of the vulvo-vaginal skin
  • Development of fissures
  • Difficulty in reaching orgasm

What Causes Loss of Sexual Sensitivity or Sexual Pain?

Sexual dysfunctions are frequent and can affect up to 50% of women during or after the treatment of gynaecological cancer. Some factors can significantly increase the risk of developing sexual pain or a loss of sensitivity, such as:

  • Aggressive treatment strategies
  • Increased pain during or after treatment
  • Increased scarring
  • Early-onset of menopause
  • Emotional distress associated with diagnosis and treatment
  • Body image distress
  • Anxiety

What is Involved in Diagnosing Sexual Pain Post Gynaecological Cancer Treatment?

We diagnose sexual pain through a detailed discussion with our patients to understand the apparition of their symptoms. We also proceed to a vaginal examination to evaluate the presence of scarring and fissures, the vulvo-vaginal skin integrity, the vagina dimensions, and the pelvic floor muscle strength.

What is the Treatment for Sexual Pain?

Our Sydney Pelvic Clinic physiotherapists emphasise the need for a multidisciplinary approach to address the physical and emotional factors. We educate and prepare our patients before cancer treatment to the impact of the postoperative changes on sexual relationships. After the surgery or therapy, we discuss their specific concerns to bring appropriate solutions, such as:

  • Dilators and release wands
  • Vibration therapy
  • Pelvic floor training
  • Optimisation of vaginal pH
  • Therapeutic yoga
  • Exercise rehabilitation
  • Referral to sex therapists, psychologists or other allied health professionals

Are There Any Home-based Treatment Options?

We assist our clients with home-based treatments, including the use of dilators and lubrication, targeted exercises, and general fitness.

5 Tips to Prevent and Manage Sexual Pain after Cancer Treatment

  1. Use vaginal moisturiser to manage dryness
  2. Practice regular yoga and meditative exercises for stress and tensions
  3. Try new positions
  4. Be honest with your partner about what feels good and what hurts
  5. Take your time and look after yourself.

Common Myths about Sexual Pain Post-Cancer Treatment

Myth #1: It is permanent.
Truth: Sexual pain can be resolved with a holistic approach in most cases. A small percentage of women experience problematic changes such as significant scarring or changes to vaginal dimensions.

Myth #2: I will never be able to have a sex life again.
Truth: A hysterectomy often improves your sex life by removing cramps, bleeding, and pain that made intimate relationships painful.

Myth #3: I can’t have an orgasm anymore.
Truth: Some nerve endings will be removed during the surgery, which affects your sensitivity. However, women who have had surgery agree that orgasms are possible but can take longer.

Get Treatment for Sexual Pain Post Gynaecological Cancer Treatment

We appreciate that it can be stressful to talk about sexual pain after hysterectomy or vulvectomy but our physiotherapists are skilled in helping women experiencing sexual pain or loss of sexual sensitivity following a hysterectomy or vulvectomy. Book a consultation with a physio at Sydney Pelvic Clinic and let us help you to enjoy your sex life again.

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