Background: In July 2005 the national forum of gynaecological oncology nurses published the first UK best practice guidelines for the use of vaginal dilators after pelvic radiotherapy. It was written following a Cochrane review by Denton and Maher suggesting that vaginal dilators minimised vaginal stenosis and improved sexual function. Women within the author’s large cancer centre are advised to use vaginal dilators in accordance with the national recommendations.
Primary outcome measure: To evaluate compliance with the use of vaginal dilators in women who have received radiotherapy for either cervix or endometrial cancer. Compliance was defined as the use of vaginal dilators two or more times a week, at 6 months.
Design: One hundred and sixty-four women were posted questionnaires. Potential participants had received pelvic radiotherapy for cancer of the cervix or endometrium, were 6 months to 5 years post-treatment and disease free. The 18-point questionnaire consisted of 11 points assessing demographics and dilator use, while points 12–18 related to vaginal symptoms. Simple descriptive statistics were used to describe demographics. Mann–Whitney U and Fisher’s exact tests were used for one-at-a-time analysis of compliance against age, vaginal symptoms, treatment modality and cancer type.
Results: Seventy-five completed questionnaires were returned (response rate 45.7%). Seventy-four out of the 75 respondents had been offered vaginal dilators during treatment. 89.2% (66/74) were compliant with vaginal dilation (95% confidence interval 80.1% to 94.4%).
Conclusion: The compliance rate in this study was greater than seen in previously published studies. This could be due to the intervention by practitioners within the author’s cancer centre. Further prospective evaluation studies are required to explore the potential benefits of intervention at 6 months post-treatment to improve long-term compliance.