How can breast cancer survivors thrive sexually?

Breast cancer treatment can have sexual side effects in women, including sexual pain, loss of breast/nipple sensation, low arousal, decreased sexual interest, and insufficient vaginal lubrication. The emotional and mental impact of cancer treatment may take their toll on sex as well.

However, you can still enjoy satisfying sex as a breast cancer survivor, as the following slides explain.

Let your healthcare provider know if you’re struggling. You might feel that after surviving cancer, sex is a lower priority. But intimacy is just as important now as it was before your diagnosis. If you’re facing sexual issues, let your doctor know. They can suggest options for managing those symptoms.

Your healthcare provider can help in other ways, too:

If you have a partner, communicate with them. If you’ve been in a couple for a long time, your partner may have taken on a caregiving role during your cancer treatment. You might find that the relationship dynamics have changed. Or you might worry about how your partner feels about you.

Most likely, your partner wants to be as supportive as possible, but may not know how. Be open about what you need, emotionally and sexually. If a certain sexual activity is uncomfortable, tell your partner. If you’re feeling less feminine or worried about a cancer recurrence, let them know. They are on your team!

If you don’t have a partner, consider dating when you’re ready. Single women often have concerns about dating and sex after cancer. Know that you don’t have to rush into anything. Relax, socialize, and have fun. When you’re ready for sex, be open about your concerns.

If you’re concerned about your body image, try to re-frame your thinking. It takes time to adjust to bodily changes, especially after chemotherapy and surgery. If you’re concerned about hair loss, consider scarves and wigs. You might discover a new style that makes you feel good. Staying bald is another option.

If you’ve lost one or both breasts, you have options there as well. Some women have reconstructive surgery. Others use a breast form or prostheses. It’s also fine if you choose not to do either of these.

If you’re having vaginal dryness, don’t hesitate to use a lubricant. Your healthcare provider can recommend lubricants or moisturizers you can use to make penetration more comfortable.

If you’re experiencing pain or loss of sensation, try new sexual activities. Intimacy is far more than intercourse. If sex is painful or if you’re not feeling as aroused as you used to, make some changes. You might try new positions, role playing, sharing fantasies, using sex toys – there are many ways to explore being sexual. Kissing, hugging, and touching are other ways to share intimacy.

Learn more about sex and breast cancer in women:

What are aromatase inhibitors? Do they cause sexual problems for women?

How might cancer and its treatment affect body image?

How might cancer patients preserve their sexuality?


American Cancer Society

“Body Image and Sexuality After Breast Cancer”

(Last revised: October 3, 2019)

Pugle, Michelle

“How to Enjoy Sex Again After Breast Cancer Treatment”

(October 4, 2018) 

“Cancer and Sex for Single Women”

(August 21, 2013)

“Dating After Cancer – Taking the Next Steps”

(October 30, 2019)

You Might Also Enjoy...

5 Factors That Fuel Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can prevent you from having the sex life you desire. But although it can be embarrassing, it’s also treatable. Learn about common factors that increase your risk of ED and what you can do to improve your health.

Why Can't I Have an Orgasm?

Everyone deserves a satisfying sex life. And if you can’t orgasm, sexual activity can be frustrating and embarrassing. Instead of suffering in silence, it’s time to learn more about sexual dysfunction and the treatment options to fix it.

What Can I Do About My Impotence?

Struggling to perform in the bedroom is embarrassing. But if you have problems getting or maintaining an erection, you’re not alone. Millions of men suffer from impotence — and treatment can help. Learn what your treatment options are here.

Understanding Male Menopause

Menopause is a process that every woman experiences with age, but did you know hormonal imbalance (and its symptoms) aren’t just a women’s health issue? Male menopause is triggered by low testosterone, and it can impact your life in a number of ways.

How the O-Shot® Can Improve Your Sex Life

Low sex drive. Painful intercourse. Inability to orgasm. Sound familiar? You could be suffering from sexual dysfunction. It’s a real condition, and it’s treatable. Find out how the O-Shot® — a platelet-rich plasma therapy — could help you.

My Hormones Are Out of Balance

Hormones are important chemical messengers in your body. When they’re out of balance, you could experience a range of unpleasant symptoms. Learn the signs of hormone imbalance and what you can do to relieve your symptoms.