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A Practical Solution for Dyspareunia in Breast Cancer Survivors

: A Randomized Controlled Trial 

Dyspareunia is common in breast cancer survivors because of low estrogen. This study explored whether dyspareunia is introital pain, preventable with analgesic liquid.

In a randomized, controlled, double-blind trial, estrogen-deficient breast cancer survivors with severe penetrative dyspareunia applied either saline or 4% aqueous lidocaine to the vulvar vestibule for 3 minutes before vaginal penetration. After a 1-month blinded trial of patient-assessed twice-per-week tampon insertion or intercourse, all patients received lidocaine for 2 months in an open-label trial. The primary outcome was patient-related assessment of penetration pain on a scale of zero to 10. Secondary outcomes were sexual distress (Female Sexual Distress Scale), sexual function (Sexual Function Questionnaire), and resumption of intercourse. Comparisons were made with the Mann-Whitney U and Wilcoxon signed rank test with significance set at P < .05.

In all, 46 patients, screened to exclude those with pelvic muscle and organ pain, uniformly had clinical evidence of severe vulvovaginal atrophy, dyspareunia (median pain score, 8 of 10; interquartile range [IQR], 7 to 9), increased sexual distress scores (median, 30.5; IQR, 23 to 37; abnormal, > 11), and abnormal sexual function. Users of lidocaine reported less pain during intercourse in the blinded phase (median score of 1.0 compared with saline score of 5.3; P = .007). After open-label lidocaine use, 37 (90%) of 41 reported comfortable penetration. Sexual distress decreased (median score, 14; IQR, 3 to 20; P < .001), and sexual function improved in all but one domain. Of 20 prior abstainers from intercourse who completed the study, 17 (85%) had resumed comfortable penetrative intimacy. No partners reported penile numbness.

Breast cancer survivors with menopausal dyspareunia can have comfortable intercourse after applying liquid lidocaine compresses to the vulvar vestibule before penetration. 


Goetsch MF, Lim JY, Caughey AB. A Practical Solution for Dyspareunia in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2015 Jul 27. pii: JCO.2014.60.7366. [Epub ahead of print] 

Content updated 28 August 2015

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