This is an excerpt of a blog published on Evidently Cochrane.
In a blog for our special series on The Problem With Sex, researcher and nurse Tracie Miles, author of a Cochrane review on vaginal dilator therapy after pelvic radiotherapy, writes about sex, science and what happens when we listen to women.
So there I am, a newbie gynaecology cancer nurse, looking after women during and after radiotherapy treatment for their pelvic cancer. My boss shows me the hospital’s vaginal dilators; hollow phallus shaped plastic tubes in various sizes stacking one inside each other like a set of Russian dolls.
The thing is, I’m supposed to tell the woman in front of me that she needs to push these tubes into her vagina. Over the last few months she has had hands, eyes and instruments in it as she is trying to cure or palliate her painful tender and occasionally bleeding cancer. I’m supposed to tell her to insert these THINGS into her vagina, around 3 times a week move it around to stretch the tender skin. My boss says that if she doesn’t the walls of the vagina might get stuck together, might lose their elasticity as well as moisture/lubrication……making penetrative sexual intercourse and medical examination difficult (known as vaginal stenosis)…. oh and not to worry if she bleeds whilst she is doing this….. that’s normal…. hmm tricky that; vaginal bleeding was the signal she had that took her to the doctor, who then put a speculum in her vagina and referred to the cancer team.
Anyway I obediently complied with issuing instructions; my patients doing the same dutifully trying to be concordant with my commands...