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The FDA needs to take another look at laser-based 'vaginal rejuvenation'

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: Laser procedures promising “vaginal rejuvenation” are being promoted to women in advertisements online, in spa windows, and even in some doctors’ offices. If my patient group is any guide, women receiving treatment for cancer may be especially interested in obtaining the benefits touted in these ads, as some cancer treatments cause sexual health side effects.

Yet the use of lasers in the vagina is not only ineffective but dangerous, and the Food and Drug Administration should immediately restrict such use.

Using lasers to treat skin conditions goes back as early as 1963 as a method for destroying pigmented skin elements. In the years since, however, the beauty industry — sometimes called the medical aesthetics industry — has gone beyond applying this technology outside the body to using it in the vagina, claiming it can treat a broad range of gynecologic and urologic conditions.

[...] As a breast cancer surgeon and a board-certified gynecologist, I am especially concerned about how these devices may be causing harm to my already vulnerable patients. Women with breast cancer are often instructed to avoid all estrogen products, which means they don’t have access to the most effective treatment for vaginal symptoms caused by their cancer treatment. Women with estrogen-sensitive tumors are typically prescribed estrogen-blocking medications, which can cause the tissues of the vagina to become thinner, dryer, and less elastic. If this state persists for years, the vagina can shorten and narrow, making penetrative intercourse next to impossible, leading women to seek ways to alleviate their symptoms.

Over the last five years, I have seen an influx of cancer patients looking for help after getting vaginal laser treatment. Some came to me with chronic bladder pain; others experience burning sensations on the vulva (the external part of the vagina) or internally. I’ve even seen scarring that causes the vaginal walls to cohere.

The more women I see with these injuries, the more I have come to suspect that the lure of “vaginal rejuvenation” might hold extra appeal for cancer patients, which appalls me. It’s not that I don’t want my patients to get relief; I do. What I want is to spare them the risks and costs of a procedure that multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown to be no better than traditional therapies, and sometimes worse than them... (MORE - missing details)

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