New Treatment Addresses Sexual Side Effects
Imagine having a hysterectomy in your 40s or becoming a breast cancer survivor in your late 30s only to learn that one of the side effects is pain during sex.
This common side effect is no longer something women have to live with thanks to a new, noninvasive treatment called the MonaLisa Touch®.
“We’ve been working so hard to diagnose breast cancer earlier, but we forget about what happens to a 37-year-old mom in a great relationship who can’t maintain intimacy anymore with their whole lives ahead of them,” said Matthew A. Barker, MD, FACOG, Avera Medical Group urogynecologist. “This treatment provides something that we’ve never been able to offer before.”
Women who had a hysterectomy or were treated for breast or uterine cancer often experience dryness or pain during intercourse. This is because estrogen, which provides lubrication and elasticity, is often depleted following hysterectomy or during cancer treatment.
The MonaLisa Touch is a laser treatment that helps restore blood flow and generate new healthy vaginal tissue without using estrogen, which can increase the risk of cancer. It’s recommended when lubricants or topical treatments are not enough to restore normal sexual function.
“The only thing more effective is giving estrogen to the vagina, which we can’t do for cancer survivors because of the risk of cancer recurrence,” Barker said.
MonaLisa is an in-office procedure that takes less than five minutes. Women typically need about three treatments followed by yearly maintenance treatments.
MonaLisa is a key component to the Sexual Medicine Program at Avera, which helps women with the emotional, physical and mental side effects of sexual dysfunction.
Women’s sexual function changes throughout their life. Sexual dysfunction can not only affect intimacy with a spouse but also cause anxiety and depression. In addition to providing treatment for pain during intercourse, Barker assembled a team that provides counseling and physical therapy according to the patient’s needs.
“Sexual dysfunction in women is individualized,” Barker said. “It’s not one procedure or pill. Our goal is to treat the emotional component, pelvic floor issues, anxiety issues and also the anatomical changes that can happen, which we can rectify with the laser treatment.”