Cancer &The Pelvic Floor
According to City of Hope, "As many as 50% of gynecologic cancer survivors and 60% of rectal cancer survivors report pain during sex. Surgery, radiation or hormone treatments for cancer can cause vaginal dryness and pain during sex."
Tips and the Why!
General overview of cancer treatment and effects on the pelvic floor!
Cancer survivors go through A LOT. We all know that cancer treatment takes a huge toll on the body, however many are surprised that when it come to intimacy and the feelings "down there," that there are more unexpected changes they weren't prepared for.
Any type of cancer survivor commonly have pain with intercourse, pain with medical exams, pelvic pain, prolapse, etc due to hormonal changes with radiation or chemo therapy. 💥 This usually comes as a surprise because many are never warned that they may have pain, dryness, etc. yet the more surprising aspect is that when the patient brings it up to their medical doctors, many feel discounted for their concerns. According to City of Hope, "As many as 50% of gynecologic cancer survivors and 60% of rectal cancer survivors report pain during sex. Surgery, radiation or hormone treatments for cancer can cause vaginal dryness and pain during sex."
Why does this happen?
This is because cancer treatments change the tissue quality throughout the body, making the muscles around the bladder and vagina more sensitive and fragile leading to pain. In many instances, medications, and treatments work to "block" hormone production. Hormones are what help with lubrication and boost up the quality of the tissues. When these are blocked, this leads to fragile tissues causing pain.
Think about when your hands are dry and your knuckles start to crack, when you make a fist, this increases the irritation. So, you put lotion on it to help! Same principle for the vulva and vaginal tissues! If the tissue around the vagina is dry or not lubricated, when sitting or attempting to be intimate, the added friction can irritate those tissues leading to pain.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can help!
Here are some tips:
-Most need a vaginal moisturizer (internally or externally) to address the lubrication and sensitivity of the pelvic floor muscles. Ask your MD for which type of products may be safe for you!
🧘🏻♀️Yoga type stretches to help relax the hips (pelvic floor are hip muscles).
💪🏼Therapist would teach strengthening of the core and butt muscles to take pressure off of the pelvic floor.
💩Education on proper bladder and bowel habits. constipation can exacerbate symptoms as well as bladder habits (pelvic muscles guard to protect the organs)
💆🏻♀️Manual therapy- transvaginal or internal stretching of the muscles as well as fascia and myofascial release to core, inner thigh and glutes. Always followed by stretching or strengthening exercises.
There is SO much that can be done after having cancer treatment!
Check in with a pelvic floor therapist!