New non-hormonal treatment for common female problem

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MERRIAM, Kan. — Many women suffer in silence with vaginal atrophy. It happens when estrogen levels drop, usually with menopause or cancer treatments. Symptoms include dryness, burning, itching and painful intercourse. A new treatment offers an alternative to hormone therapy.

Five years after a hysterectomy, intimacy became uncomfortable for Jill Buchert.

“Then this year, we went from uncomfortable to painful like the flip of a switch,” Buchert said.

Vaginal atrophy is often treated with suppositories, creams or pills that are hormone-based treatments.

“I didn’t want to take anything artificial,” Buchert said.

Women who’ve had estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers can’t take estrogen therapies. Dr. Patrick Nosti, a urogynecologist with Shawnee Mission Health, now offers a non-hormonal alternative. It’s a laser treatment called MonaLisa Touch.

“The probe is inserted into the vagina all the way to the top and the laser is activated. The heat energy is then distributed through the tissue,” said Dr. Nosti.

The laser creates small lesions that trigger the production of collagen.

“In the end, what happens is you get thickening of the tissue, improved moisture, improved elasticity and decreased pain,” Dr. Nosti said.

Buchert said she noticed a difference after the first of three treatments that are done six weeks apart.

“I was really shocked at how effective it was. You know, not only did it restore a level of comfort in my intimate relationship with my husband, but just being a woman, you feel more like yourself,” she said.

Buchert said the procedure was very tolerable. She did have some discomfort for an hour after one treatment.

Insurance does not cover the procedure. The cost is $1,800 for the first three treatments, then $600 for an annual treatment that’s recommended to maintain symptom relief.

For more on the procedure, the Shawnee Mission Medical Center will hold a discussion to address the condition and treatment options.

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