Management of genitourinary syndrome of menopause in female cancer patients: a focus on vaginal hormonal therapy

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Feb;222(2):103-113. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.08.043. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


Genitourinary syndrome of menopause is a condition describing the hypoestrogenic effects on the female genitals and lower urinary tract leading to symptoms such as vaginal dryness, vulvar and vaginal burning, dyspareunia and dysuria. Genitourinary syndrome of menopause is experienced by over half of postmenopausal women, and is even more pervasive in women with cancer. Due to treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, women may experience early menopause resulting in earlier and more severe symptoms. Understanding the scope of this issue in female breast and gynecologic cancer survivors and identifying treatment options for this complex patient population are paramount. Tailored patient treatments include nonhormonal therapies (vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, pelvic floor physical therapy, dilator therapy, counseling), systemic and local hormonal therapies. Consensus recommendations by medical societies and associated evidence are reviewed, with emphasis on safety and efficacy of local vaginal hormonal therapies, and management variations noted depending on cancer type and characteristics. With knowledge and understanding of the unmet need associated with under-recognition and under-treatment of genitourinary syndrome of menopause, providers caring for women with cancer are in a position to improve the quality of life of their patients by providing safe and effective treatments.

Keywords: atrophic vaginitis; breast cancer; cancer survivorship; dehydroepiandrosterone; dyspareunia; endometrial cancer; estrogen-progestin therapy; genitourinary syndrome of menopause; gynecologic cancer; nonhormonal vaginal therapy; quality of life; sexual dysfunction; sexual health; vaginal hormonal therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravaginal
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Dyspareunia / therapy
  • Dysuria / therapy
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Female Urogenital Diseases / therapy*
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female*
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use
  • Lipids / therapeutic use
  • Lubricants / therapeutic use
  • Menopause*
  • Patient Selection
  • Pelvic Floor
  • Physical Therapy Modalities


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lipids
  • Lubricants
  • Replens
  • Lidocaine