As every woman who has gone down this journey knows, “breast cancer” doesn’t end with remission. Life is changed permanently after the diagnosis, both emotionally and physically. For many women, some lifelong physical changes may be the result of estrogen-blocking medications used to prevent breast cancer recurrence.

Thankfully, a hopeful change may be on the horizon.

On Monday, February 22, 2016, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement saying that topical vaginal estrogen may be a safe method of relieving symptoms of the anti-estrogen drugs. These uncomfortable symptoms often include vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, and bleeding.

Topical Estrogen’s Lower Recurrence Risk

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Unlike oral estrogen treatments, topical vaginal estrogen is highly localized.That means it mostly releases estrogen where you put it–not all over the body. For women who have had estrogen-positive breast cancer, it’s important that estrogen not make it back to their breast tissue again. Thankfully topical estrogen doesn’t.  The treatment can be given as a tablet, ring, or cream placed directly into the vagina. Topical treatments are also taken at lower doses than oral options. Due to the smaller dosages and localized nature of topical estrogen, current data suggests it is a safe treatment option for women with estrogen-dependent breast cancer. However, there is a limited number of studies done and most of them have been fairly small in size.

Using Topical Estrogen May Still Pose a Problem

Even though research into the use of topical estrogen is promising, the ACOG recognizes that there is still a risk and that problems with the treatment may exist. Because of this, the ACOG states that vaginal topical estrogen should only be used once all nonhormonal options have been exhausted. Additionally, any woman who decides to use topical estrogen should use the smallest amount possible for only a short amount of time. The ACOG recommends using rings or tablets over estrogen cream to better prevent the body from taking in too much estrogen.

Regardless, for women who’ve exhausted all other methods, these findings may present a hopeful picture.

Click here to read more about the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ statement and the potential for topical estrogen.