Vaginal changes

As well as the menopause, radiotherapy and surgery to the pelvis can make the vagina narrower and less stretchy. It also reduces the natural lubrication in your vagina, making it drier. This can make having sex or an internal medical examination uncomfortable, so it’s important to try to keep the vagina from narrowing.

Your specialist nurse or radiographer will explain more about this and answer any questions you may have. They are used to discussing these issues, so you needn’t feel embarrassed.

Vaginal dilators

Your hospital team may recommend you use vaginal dilators to help. Dilators are tampon-shaped plastic tubes of different sizes that you use with a lubricant. Although they’re commonly used, there isn’t strong evidence to say how effective they are. Rarely, they may cause damage to the vagina, especially if they aren’t used correctly. Your specialist nurse, radiographer or doctor will explain how best to use them in your situation.

Having regular penetrative sex, using a dildo or vibrator, or using lubricated fingers may also help prevent the vagina from narrowing. Even if you are having sex regularly, you may still be advised to use a dilator.

Vaginal dryness

Different creams, gels, lubricants or pessaries (small pellets that are put inside the vagina) can help with this. Your doctor may recommend using vaginal oestrogen creams or pessaries, which can be prescribed. Your cancer doctor will tell you if it’s advisable for you to take these.

There are lots of products to improve vaginal dryness that you can buy from most chemists and some supermarkets.

For example, Replens MD® cream or water-based lubricants such as Senselle®, Astroglide®, Sylk®, Vielle® or Durex® lube. Vaginal dryness can make you more likely to get infections, such as thrush, so let your doctor know if you have symptoms such as itching or soreness.

Back to Menopausal symptoms, sex and fertility

Menopausal symptoms

Some treatments for cervical cancer can bring the menopause on. You may experience some menopausal symptoms.

Fertility

The treatment you have for cervical cancer may mean you are no longer able to have children.