Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer undergo treatments that mess with their natural hormones and cause them to experience the symptoms of early menopause, including anxiety, moodiness, fatigue, hot flashes, dry skin and hair, reduced sex drive, reduced sensation during intercourse, and vaginal dryness or atrophy.
While these symptoms can often be a good sign that treatments are doing what they’re supposed to do and making sure the cancer doesn’t have any hormones to feed on, early menopause can be uncomfortable, painful, and embarrassing to the woman going through it. In an effort to feel normal again, many end up grasping at straws, trying anything and everything to gain control of their bodies and lives again.
There are plenty of home remedies and medications women can try to help ease some of these symptoms, but not all of them are as safe as they first appear. One of the not-so-safe options is a vaginal rejuvenation device, which uses laser or radiofrequency energy to stimulate the tissues of the vagina in the hopes of helping it regain firmness, elasticity, and lubrication. These devices are commonly marketed to women experiencing menopausal symptoms to help them overcome vaginal dryness, vaginal laxity, vaginal atrophy, and discomfort or decreased sensation during sex.
However, these vaginal rejuvenation devices are not actually FDA-approved to treat menopausal symptoms in women who are going through early menopause because of cancer treatment, and the FDA is concerned that some companies may be using deceptive marketing to prey on these women, who are in a vulnerable position and searching for help.
The problem is that some vaginal rejuvenation devices have been approved by the FDA, but only for the treatment of more serious conditions and those that the devices have proven to be effective for, such as “abnormal or pre-cancerous cervical or vaginal tissue and condylomas (genital warts).” Companies can use the fact that these devices are FDA-approved to gloss over the fact that they could be dangerous and are not intended or proven to treat vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms.
On top of not actually being shown to treat the symptoms they’re marketed towards, vaginal rejuvenation devices come with a hefty list of risks according to the FDA, including vaginal scarring, burning, pain during sex, and recurring pain. The FDA is urging participating companies to cease their “egregious” marketing of vaginal rejuvenation therapies and reminding healthcare professionals to report any adverse reactions to MedWatch as soon as patients mention them.
“Our most fundamental obligation to the American public is providing patients with access to safe and effective medical products to meet their health care needs as well as protecting them from harmful products and deceptive medical claims,” asserts FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb in a statement.
Gottlieb continues: “Advancing the health of women is a priority for the FDA. […] And as part of [our] efforts, we also watch for, and take action against, bad actors who unfortunately take advantage of unsuspecting consumers by marketing unapproved, deceptive products that may pose safety risks and violate the trust of American consumers.”
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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?