Posted in: Medicine

Testosterone Therapy May Improve Sexual Function For Women

BRCA, hormone replacement therapy

Clinicians have found that administering high doses of testosterone can significantly improve sexual functioning in women who have undergone a hysterectomy and an oophorectomy.

With the celebrity spotlight focused on cancers recently – particularly those of the primary and secondary sexual organs of the female anatomy in correlation to BRCA gene mutations – it’s important to understand the side effects of having one’s ovaries and uterus surgically removed.

Research has shown women who have preexisting abnormalities in the BRCA gene have a greater risk of suffering breast and ovarian cancers within their lifetime. Rare mutations in these genes produce a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in affected families – increasing the likelihood of ovarian cancer by 40 percent.

It’s been suggested BRCA gene mutations may also escalation a woman’s risk of developing cervical and uterine cancers. Therefore, some women elect to preemptively have their breasts, ovaries, and uterus removed.

Hysterectomies and oophorectomies can also be performed on organs already afflicted with cancer.

Since the ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which help regulate the menstrual cycle, their removal causes a drop in these hormones. A side effect of this sudden hormonal drop is a decreased interest in sexual activity, killing off the libido, which can disrupt intimate relationships and affect quality of life.

Dr. Grace Huang – an endocrinology fellow at Boston University Medical Center – led the study, the results of which were presented at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

There has been emerging interest in supplemental hormonal treatment with the primary male sex hormone, testosterone. Study investigators wanted to determine the effects of testosterone on sexual functioning among women post-surgery, recruiting 71 participants.

For the first 12 weeks of the study, patients received estrogen replacement. Investigators then randomly assigned them to one of five groups for weekly injections of placebo, or 3, 6.25, 12.5, or 25 milligrams (mg) of an intramuscular testosterone enanthate for 24 weeks.

Sexual functioning and interest improved considerably among those receiving 25 mg of testosterone compared to the placebo, increasing the number of weekly sexual encounters by 2.7 due to a greater blood concentration of free testosterone. Free testosterone means the hormone is more active because it is unencumbered by proteins.

Lower doses did not make a noteworthy impact on interest and arousal.

Additional studies are necessary in order to determine the long-term efficacy and safety of taking higher doses of testosterone as part of hormone therapy. Introducing copious amounts of androgens in women can have adverse effects – masculine in nature. These can include unwanted hair growth and acne.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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