Laser treatment helps cancer survivor's Menopause side effect

A laser procedure is helping many women with menopause-like side effects that really effect intimacy.

Like many breast cancer survivors, 34-year-old Lisa Elliot was prescribed Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy drug used to prevent the disease from returning.

But after a year on the anti-estrogen medication, she started experiencing menopause-like side-effects.

"One of the symptoms that was the worst for me, that nobody ever mentioned was the vaginal atrophy part of it," she said.

Vaginal atrophy often occurs after menopause. Studies estimate it can effect up to 60-percent of postmenopausal women.

Dr. Ronald Blatt says: "After menopause a woman's estrogen levels decrease and that causes a thinning of the vaginal wall, which results in vaginal dryness, irritation, itchiness, painful intercourse."

As Lisa's symptoms worsened, sex with her former boyfriend became unbearable.

"It was excruciatingly painful and in that relationship I think that there was a lot of distrust that was developing," she said. "It was a question of, 'Are you not attracted to me?'"

Estrogen replacement therapy is commonly used to treat these conditions, but since many breast cancers are fed by estrogen, these drugs are not safe for patients like Lisa.

Searching for another remedy, Lisa’s doctors found the MonaLisa Touch laser treatment.

"This is a unique, fractional laser that's been utilized for many years in the face, and in the neck, to revitalize that skin," said Dr. Mickey Karram of the Christ Hospital.

The laser probe is inserted into the vagina and releases photon energy to the skin to stimulate the production of collagen.

You need three, five-minute sessions every six weeks and one session per year afterward.

Most patients experience relief right away or by the second appointment.

"The laser itself just feels like vibration, there's absolutely no pain with it," Lisa said.

The therapy can be up to $3,000 and is not covered by insurance - but Lisa says it is worth it.

"I feel amazing; I know that I can be sexually active with somebody that I care about. And I don't have to worry about being broken," she said.

Although some experts warn that further long-term studies and safety tests need to be done, initial clinical studies show encouraging results with 85 to 90 percent improvement of all symptoms.

Before this laser, for patients like Lisa the option was to suffer in pain or avoid intimacy altogether.