Intimacy After Breast Cancer
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Treatment with tamoxifen was not associated with a higher rate of sexual dysfunction. Women reported problems in all four areas of sexual function: lack of interest in sexual activity, difficulty becoming aroused, difficulty relaxing and enjoying sex, and difficulty achieving orgasm. Lack of interest in sexual activity appeared to be the biggest problem. Women who reported vaginal dryness or feelings of decreased sexual attractiveness experienced the greatest number of sexual problems.
Among women who received chemotherapy, those who became menopausal as a result of chemotherapy reported a greater number of sexual problems.
This appeared to be explained largely by onset of vaginal dryness. Topical anesthetics may be helpful for patients with severe pain.
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Low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy may help control vaginal dryness and sexual pain, though their use for breast cancer patients is controversial due to concerns that estrogen may raise risk for recurrence. Some sexually active breast cancer survivors, however, were more comfortable using vaginal estrogen treatment when closely monitored, as this method results in less systemic estrogen absorption than the oral or skin route patch.
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There have been no clinical studies showing an adverse effect on survival or recurrence of cancer with vaginal estrogen use in breast cancer survivors. Sexual function after breast cancer.
Journal of Sexual Medicine [early online publication]. September 23, Journal of Clinical Oncology. Sort: Newest. Featured 1, Community 4. Learn who's at risk and how breast cancer is diagnosed and prevented. It is important to discuss these changes with your partner, so that you are both aware of your concerns. You may find that it helps to wear a camisole or other nightwear to bed to conceal the surgical scar until you are comfortable.
Other women prefer to wear a breast prosthesis and bra at night. Another issue which often concerns women after mastectomy is the loss of pleasure from the breast which has been removed. Surgical or radiotherapy scars may also be painful or uncomfortably sensitive.
One strategy which may help in this situation is to focus on stimulation of other areas of the body, for example the neck or inner thighs. Again, discussion of the changes with your partner will help both of you feel more comfortable with your new body shape, and discover new ways of finding pleasure. Most of all, it is important to take your time.
Sexual Intimacy and the Male Response After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
A number of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer have hormonal effects, suppressing the normal function of the ovaries. This causes the early onset of menopause. Symptoms may include hot flushes, reduced libido, or vaginal dryness. The symptoms of chemotherapy -induced menopause may be more severe than those of natural menopause, and women with a history of breast cancer are usually advised to avoid hormone replacement therapies HRT to relieve symptoms.
There are several strategies which may help to alleviate or reduce some of these symptoms:. Other side effects of treatment may include fatigue , depression and nausea. If these symptoms persist or are causing you concern, discuss them with your doctor, as there are treatment options available.
In particular, it is important to be aware of the possibility of depression. Depression is very common following a diagnosis of cancer, and is a serious illness which requires professional help. The partner of an affected woman may be reluctant to initiate or engage in physical intimacy due to fear of causing pain; or sexual desire may have become obscured by fears about the illness or losing their partner.
Sexuality and Intimacy | Susan G. Komen®
This can be mistakenly interpreted as rejection. By discussing the underlying reasons, some couples find that their relationship is even strengthened. One strategy which may help you re-connect is by focusing on methods of intimacy other than sexual intercourse. If problems persist, you may wish to consider seeking help from a professional sex therapist. Single women entering new relationships after treatment for breast cancer may also have fears about the changes to their body, and the possibility of rejection.
It can be difficult to know when to share health-related fears with a new partner. Discussing these issues with a counsellor may help. Adapting to life after treatment for breast cancer can be difficult enough without the additional stress of misinformation. You can cue your doctor in advance, since he or she has most likely already touched on delicate issues with you.
Maybe he or she can be the tour guide for the two of you. If your partner is there when you talk with the doctor who's managing your care, you and your partner both get a chance to air and dispel fears, and replace myths and false information with facts. She had breast cancer in both breasts, treated with l lumpectomy and radiation. Her breasts looked great—but her husband was ignoring them completely. I scheduled an appointment that included her husband and was able to reassure him that her breasts would not be harmed by fondling, kissing, or whatever; that he could not catch cancer; and that she was not radioactive.
They quickly resumed their former lovemaking habits. Not all doctors and nurses are comfortable discussing sexual issues and practices.
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Most doctors don't routinely ask about your sex life. And patients don't usually begin to discuss their love life with a doctor who hasn't mentioned it. Nobody's talking! Someone has to break the pattern.