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The Doctors are joined by OB/GYN Dr. Thai Aliabadi to discuss the common procedure, LEEP, done to treat precancerous changes of the cervix by scraping away abnormal cells. Some women, including Rhonda who joins on Skype, say this procedure destroyed their sex life.
Rhonda says she was diagnosed with stage 0 cancer and was told if she didn't have the procedure it would turn to cancer pretty quickly. After her surgery, she noticed the loss of sensation during sexual activities, claiming she couldn't feel anything even with vaginal or clitoral stimulation. She says she is part of an online support group on Facebook called "Healing from LEEP," which has over 600 women, who all claim to have these side effects.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon questions the claims saying if you are scraping the cervix, the nerve endings that are going to come into play with sex are not there, so he's not quite seeing the connection. Urologist Dr. Irwin Goldstein joins on Skype, to explain his belief that there is one.
He has researched how this procedure may impact sex life. "The cervix is a sexual organ, it's involved in orgasm in a percentage of women... if the LEEP happens too deep, it can take away their genital brain connection and essentially that's what happened to Rhonda, sadly," Dr. Goldstein says.
"I have been practicing for many years, I've done thousands of these procedures. To this day, I've never had a single patient come back to me... and complain of sexual dysfunction. If the procedure is done right, you will not have any sexual dysfunction," says Dr. Aliabadi. She stresses that if you have precancerous cells, it's not something you can ignore! You need to do the procedure.
It seems the issue is more about choosing a skilled surgeon because, in the wrong hands, this procedure could be damaging. If it's not done superficially, and too much of the cervix is removed, that is where post-surgery complications can occur. Dr. Goldstein says there are clearly doctors who take three or more centimeters of cervix tissue.
Dr. Goldstein continues to say the sexual consequences from this surgery are not being discussed and that is a big issue. He believes if a woman who needs this procedure has orgasms that are primarily cervical in origin, she should let the doctor know.
While Dr. Goldstein says there are other options, Dr. Aliabadi counters there are not. "If you have high-grade lesions on your cervix, you need to remove them. A LEEP procedure in the hand of an experienced surgeon has minimal risk. You will not have sexual dysfunction if it's done right."
For a woman who needs this procedure, do your research and find someone who specializes in LEEP. Ask how many of these surgeries they have done. Acknowledge, if applicable, your desire to have kids, the importance of sexual function, and that you want to make sure the surgeon takes as little as possible. You can ask if any patients have experienced sexual dysfunction after this. You can even ask for referrals.
"As with any procedure in medicine, you have to make sure you're going to the best doctor for you, given your circumstances and what you need done," concludes ER physician Dr. Travis Stork.