Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
What Is A Vaginal Infection?
Vaginal infections occur when there is a virus, bacteria or fungus that has occurred
in your vagina.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a common cause of vaginal bacterial and viral
infections in the general population. In those receiving chemotherapy, however,
a common cause of infections is due to yeast or fungus.
Herpes Simplex Virus
This may be noted when you have a weakened immune system, and if you had prior exposure
to the herpes virus through sexual contact with an infected partner. You may never
have had an outbreak of a herpes virus.
Symptoms of a vaginal herpes infection include an outbreak of lesions in your genital
area. The herpes virus lives in your nerves, and will come and go through out your
lifetime. There is no cure. The incidence of outbreaks, however, usually becomes
less frequent with time.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that you can pass on to your partner. In
order to diagnose herpes, your healthcare provider can obtain a blood test, to see
if you have been exposed to the virus. He or she may also take a sample (usually
with a cotton swab) of the fluid from the lesions, and examine the cells under the
microscope, after it has been sent for a culture.
Treatment for a herpes virus includes Acyclovir, an anti-viral medication, which
is taken in either a pill or an intravenous (IV) form. This will get rid of lesions
associated with the herpes virus. However, there is a concern that lesions may return.
It is likely, that during chemotherapy, you will remain on lower doses of Acyclovir
therapy in order to prevent an outbreak in the future.
Vaginal Yeast Infections
Also called candida albicans, a vaginal yeast infection can cause you to feel very
uncomfortable. Vaginal yeast infections are very common. Symptoms include:
- Itching and burning of your vagina. Your vagina may become red and inflamed.
- You will likely have a discharge of secretions, usually thick, white, and resembling
"cottage cheese". However, some women have no discharge.
- You may experience pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.
What Causes A Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Yeast like to live in warm, moist environments, normally. The yeast
is prevented from multiplying by the acidic environment in your vagina. Once the
acidic balance of your vagina is changed (when the acid balance becomes too low),
the yeast will grow and flourish. Things which may cause your acid-balance to be
too low, include:
- For pre-menopausal women: following your menstrual period, or "monthly cycle"
- Steroid medications
- Antibiotics used during chemotherapy treatment
- Vaginal irritation may also cause yeast to grow
Things You Can Do For A Vaginal Infection:
- Vaginal infections can become very hard to treat during chemotherapy due to the
body's decreased ability to fight infection. Prevention of vaginal yeast infections
is highly important.
- Report any signs of a vaginal yeast infection to your physician immediately (intense
itching, burning, or thick unusual discharge)
- To help decrease the chance of developing a vaginal yeast infection:
- Avoid wearing pantyhose, leotards, nylon panties or tight pants. Do not wear synthetic
- Cotton panties and loose clothing are recommended.
- Avoid the use of scented oils, bubble baths, powders, feminine hygiene sprays, or
douches. Sanitary pads and tampons can also affect the acid balance of the vagina.
- Avoid use of vaseline as a vaginal lubricant as it can increase the chances and
severity of vaginal yeast infections.
- Wipe from the front of your body, to the back, after going to the bathroom. This
may prevent any abnormal bacteria from getting into your vagina.
- Do not wear wet swimsuits or clothes for long periods of time.
- Make sure your genital area is dry after a bath or shower.
Common Problems With Sexuality: Impotence, Gynecomastia, Loss of Libido, Vaginal
Dryness, Vaginal Infection,
and Genital Pain
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health
care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information
contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute
for medical advice.
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