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Vaginal Dilator Use to Promote Sexual Wellbeing After Radiotherapy in Gynaecological Cancer Survivors: A Prospective Observational Study

Dimitra Charatsi, Polyxeni Vanakara, Michail Nikolaou, Aikaterini Evaggelopoulou, Dimitrios Korfias, Foteini Simopoulou, Nikolaos Charalampakis, Dimitrios Schizas, Alexandros Daponte, George Kyrgias,
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Abstract: Background: Since continuing advances in radiotherapy technology broaden the role of radiotherapy in the treatment of gynaecologic malignancies, the use of vaginal dilators has been introduced in order to mitigate the risk of vaginal stenosis. The main aims of this study were to investigate the vaginal dilator use efficacy in the treatment of radiation-induced vaginal stenosis and the vaginal dilator effect on sexual quality of life. Methods: We studied fifty-three patients with endometrial or cervical cancer. The participants were treated with radical or adjuvant external beam radiotherapy and/or brachytherapy. They were routinely examined at four time points post-radiotherapy when also they were asked to fill in a validated sexual function-vaginal changes questionnaire. A p-value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: The vaginal stenosis grading score was decreased and the size of the vaginal dilator comfortably insertable was gradually increased throughout the year of vaginal dilator use while radiation-induced vaginal and sexual symptoms were improved throughout the year of VD use. All patients with initial grade 3 showed vaginal stenosis of grade 2 after 12 months of vaginal dilator use and 65.8% of the patients with grade 2 initial vaginal stenosis demonstrated final vaginal stenosis grade 1 while 77.8% of the participants with initial 1st size of vaginal dilators reached the 3rd vaginal dilator size after 12 months. Starting time of dilator therapy <= 3 months after the end of radiotherapy was associated with a significant decrease in vaginal stenosis. Additionally, there was an overall upward trend regarding patients’ satisfaction with their sexual life. Conclusion: Endometrial and cervical cancer survivors should be encouraged to use vaginal dilators for the treatment of vaginal stenosis and sexual rehabilitation after radiotherapy.
Keywords: treatment / quality of life / efficacy / radiotherapy / dilator use / vaginal dilator / cervical cancer / radiation induced

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