Sexual Wellbeing After Breast cancer (SWAB) study

Chief Investigator: Professor Susan Davis
Co-Investigators: Professor Robin Bell, Dr Fiona Jane

The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of the hormone testosterone used intravaginally on the symptoms of vaginal dryness, itch or pain affecting sexual wellbeing in women with breast cancer on aromatase inhibitor (AI) therapy.

Current guidelines recommend that women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer who are postmenopausal at diagnosis are treated with an AI either initially or after 2 to 3 years of tamoxifen, for at least 5 years.

Aromatase inhibitor medications lower estrogen levels and lead to increased symptoms of vaginal dryness, irritation, itching, infection, discomfort and painful sex (dyspareunia) known as vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA). Current therapies for this may be contraindicated in women with breast cancer, or are expensive and often ineffective. Initial research supports the use of intra-vaginal testosterone in these women.  We anticipate intra-vaginal testosterone will reduce sexual discomfort/pain, improve sexual wellbeing and vaginal symptoms.

For this study we will recruit 100 women with breast cancer on aromatase inhibitor therapy (anastrozole, letrozole. exmestane). We will ask for consent from their treating oncologist. Half of the women will use active medication and half will be the control group using placebo (inactive medication).

Women will need to be able to:

  • attend 3 visits over 26 weeks to the Women’s Health Research Program at The Alfred Centre. Prahran, Victoria
  • have blood taken at each visit
  • have vaginal smears taken on 3 visits

This research project is funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of Monash University.

For futher information please contact Ashley Baring on + 61 3 9903 0830 or email womens.health@monash.edu at the Women’s Health Research Program, Monash University.