A practical solution for dyspareunia in breast cancer survivors: A randomized controlled trial

Martha F. Goetsch, Jeong Y. Lim, Aaron B. Caughey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Purpose: Dyspareunia is common in breast cancer survivors because of low estrogen. This study explored whether dyspareunia is introital pain, preventable with analgesic liquid. Patients and Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusion: Breast cancer survivors with menopausal dyspareunia can have comfortable intercourse after applying liquid lidocaine compresses to the vulvar vestibule before penetration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3394-3400
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number30
StatePublished - Oct 20 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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