Sexuality and Breast Cancer

 When a diagnosis of breast cancer enters one’s life, it becomes a focal point for the woman and her partner.  Usually concern for survival is so great, that the couple’s sexual needs are low priority. The effect of the diagnosis on their relationship and sexuality are sometimes not addressed. However, the concerns and worries are in one’s thoughts.  Many of these concerns are not voiced which causes anxiety, and as anxiety occurs, the sexual response is not always intact.

It is normal for all women, and especially women who have a cancer diagnosis to have periods of loss of sexual desire.  However our sexuality is with us at all times and can be expressed through closeness, touch, caring, and pleasure. Remember,  Sex does not equal intercourse

Common worries are:

·        What will I look like after surgery?

·        My breasts have always been a part of my sexuality, how will it be for me after surgery?

·        What will my partner think of my sexuality and me?

·        Will my partner continue to be attracted to me?

·        Will I have a sexual response?  Will the drugs effect my sexual desire, pleasure and orgasms?

 All of the above questions are real.  Your relationship needs you and your partner to “make talk and make love.”  The more worried you are, the more anxiety and anger creeps into your relationship.  This becomes the relationship’s  energy source, causing stress and tension.

Take an inventory of your relationship.  Is your relationship loaded down with unresolved conflict?  This may be the time that you could consider counseling for yourself and your relationship.

Some women find it difficult to talk about their feelings, and their sexuality.  If you are open about your sexual concerns, your partner will also be more open.  Your partner may find it difficult to bring up the subject because he/she is fearful of causing more pain.

So own your concerns, and start talking. 

Tips for conversation.

Use open-ended questions.  An example is “I am concerned about how you will sexually respond to me after surgery.  What are you thinking and feeling about our sexual relationship?"

Physicians are not always comfortable talking about sexual issues.  However, be assertive, and ask for information; he or she probably has a lot of information.

The American Cancer Society publishes Sexuality and Cancer .  Call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit their web site at   to obtain a  free copy.

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