Breast cancer treatment affects women’s sexuality in some predictable ways, but every woman is different
It almost seems taboo, doesn’t it? Thinking about sex while you fight for your life?
But the truth is, cancer treatment affects women’s sexuality in different ways. Some women don’t have any interest in sex during treatment, while some will want nothing more than a good romp in the sack.
In talking with patients about the pros and cons of particular cancer treatment strategies, doctors may not bring up the topic of sex…but you can. And when you do, your doc will likely be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about how cancer care may affect your sexuality.
During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, lets talk about some of the more predictable effects of breast cancer treatment on sexuality…and what to do about them:
- Pain: Some treatments cause bodily pain…and several treatments can reduce natural vaginal lubrication which could make sex painful. If you’re experiencing pain, you can (and should) talk to your doctor about it…and your doctor can help you with vaginal moisturizers and lubricants that could help, too.
- Fatigue: As a result of medications or your emotional response to the fears and challenges of battling cancer, you might feel exhausted and not interested in sex. But if nurturing your sexuality and your sex life remains a priority for you, consider making a date with your partner (or yourself) during a time of day when you know you feel the most energized.
- Reduced desire: Sexual desire is related to the hormones in your body, which may be in flux as a result of cancer treatment. Plus, chemo can make a lot of people with cancer feel too sick to even think about sex. So give yourself some leeway, and don’t blame yourself if you’re not in the mood…more than likely, that feeling will come back after treatment. Also, if you have a partner, talking about how you’re feeling can go a long way toward increasing intimacy and understanding (with or without sex).
- Changes in body image or response to sensation: It’s no surprise that a woman’s body image may change with breast cancer. Breasts are not only associated with sexuality in our culture, but when they are touched during foreplay, they actually send a chemical signal to help arouse the genitals. So if you feel that your breasts have betrayed you, or you’ve had surgery, it can complicate your sexual responsiveness. The good news? You can explore your bodily responses (by yourself or with a partner) anew…and you might be pleasantly surprised by the many different ways you can experience sexual arousal and pleasure.
Breast cancer treatment is no walk in the park, but ideally it won’t last forever. After treatment, give yourself time to get reacquainted with your body…and don’t be timid about bringing up sexual issues with your doctor, before, during and after cancer treatment.