Female Cancer Survivors and Sex Health Issues

If you’re a woman going through cancer treatment, you’ve probably had to adapt to a lot of changes in your life. You might have seen some dramatic changes in your sex life, too – changes you might not have been prepared for.

Maybe you’re not able to have sex the way you used to. Perhaps you’re experiencing hormonal changes that affect your level of desire. Maybe you’re feeling confused about your partner or your relationship. Or you might be feeling anxious about starting a new relationship after cancer treatment.

No matter what you’re experiencing, it’s normal to be concerned about your sex life. Your sexuality is a part of who you are. Today we’ll look at some of the issues female cancer survivors face and some strategies to cope with them.

Physical challenges

Emotional challenges

Lots of women feel anxious about changes that result from cancer treatment and how they’ll be perceived by others.

Other concerns

Talk to your doctor.

Your doctor might not bring up sexual issues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Don’t hesitate to speak up! He or she may know the remedy. And even if your doctor doesn’t have all the answers, he or she can refer you to someone who does, such as a sex therapist or counselor. And there’s nothing wrong with seeing a specialist.

Talk to your partner.

If changes in your sex life are troubling you, be sure to talk to your partner as well. Together, you and your partner can brainstorm ways to adjust your sexual repertoire. For example, if vaginal intercourse is uncomfortable, try oral sex or kissing and cuddling. (Read more about sexual pain here.) 

You might also need more time to become fully aroused. If so, tell your partner what you need. Take advantage of that time to experiment and just enjoy each other.  

Your partner might be nervous about sex, too, afraid of hurting you or doing something “wrong.”  If an activity hurts, by all means say so. But if you miss an old activity or touch, let your partner know.

Consider therapy.

Know that you are not alone. Depression and anxiety, common in breast cancer patients and survivors, can take a toll on your sex life as well. If you think you need help, consider therapy or a support group. Couples counseling and sex therapy may also help you work out changes in your relationship.

Moving forward

Remember, your sex life was likely important to you before cancer. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be important now. Cancer and its treatment shouldn’t prevent you from having healthy, fulfilling sex.

To learn more about breast cancer and sexuality, see these links:

Breast Cancer Survivors Face Sexual Concerns

The Effects of Cancer on Women’s Sexuality

Cancer and Sex for Single Women

Special Therapy Addresses Body Image in Breast Cancer Survivors

Breast Cancer Treatment Could Preserve Ovarian Function

Breast Cancer Has Sexual Impact on Both Survivors and Partners

For Breast Cancer Survivors, Sexual Concerns May Last Years

Additional Resources

BreastCancer.org

“Changes in Your Sex Life”

(Last modified: June 13, 2017)

https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/intimacy/changes

Schwartz, Dr. Pepper via PRNewswire

“Breast Cancer and Intimacy: Advice for Survivors to Address Sexual Dysfunction and Regain Confidence”

(October 16, 2018)

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/breast-cancer-and-intimacy-advice-for-survivors-to-address-sexual-dysfunction-and-regain-confidence-300731981.html

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