Patients' perception and adherence to vaginal dilator therapy: a systematic review and synthesis employing symbolic interactionism
Red Cross College of Nursing, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Background: Vaginal dilator (VD) therapy is often recommended for women receiving pelvic radiation therapy or experiencing pain and discomfort during intercourse, as well as for women with a congenital malformation of the vagina. VD use has both physical and psychological benefits; however, it often causes pain, discomfort, and adverse emotions, including embarrassment and loss of modesty, which often result in low adherence to therapy.
Objectives: The aims of this study were to explore the use and adherence of VD therapy in women, identify barriers and facilitators of therapy adherence, and suggest improvement strategies from the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted using PubMed, CINAHL, and Scopus databases, with no year restrictions. Articles addressing the experience of women using VD therapy, as well as barriers and facilitators of therapy adherence were selected and analyzed. Then, the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism was introduced and applied to synthesize the results.
Results: A total of 21 articles were selected for the review. Most of the reviewed studies explored VD therapy in women who had undergone pelvic radiation therapy for gynecological cancer. Women’s adherence to the therapy ranged between 25% and 89.2%, with great variance in definitions and methods for assessing therapy adherence. Among the five categories of identified barriers to therapy adherence, “unhelpful circumstances” and “negative perceptions toward the VD” were the two most frequently mentioned. The two most frequently reported facilitators of adherence among the six identified categories were “supportive interactions with health care providers” and “risk perception and positive outcome expectancies”. On the basis of the perspective of symbolic interactionism, strategies for strengthening interactions with others (eg, health care providers, significant others, and support groups) are discussed in detail.
Conclusion: Strategic intervention regarding the decisive factors identified in the review can benefit women by enhancing their experience and adherence to VD therapy.
Keywords: sexuality, gynecological cancer, Müllerian agenesis, dyspareunia, barriers, facilitators
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