With October coming to a close, it’s been a month of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. While we’ve seen the President wearing his pink wristband and articles about preventative care, one of the issues that isn’t too commonly discussed is sex after cancer. In an article published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers looked at sexual dysfunction as one of the most common and difficult side effects of cancer treatment. Although some treatment-related side effects are short-term, many women with breast cancer can face long-term effects such as hormonal changes and surgical disfigurement. The emotional and interpersonal impact of cancer treatment occurs on multiple levels; women face vulnerability and significant changes to their bodies. Another common concern is that the romantic partners who love them typically have a role change from lover to caretaker. These role changes can be confusing for both partners and cause a variety of sexual problems. Sexual problems have been shown to have a negative impact on the quality of people’s lives and relationships. The article discusses a range of intervention strategies that can help patients cope with cancer-related sexual problems, as many survivors are not ready for potential sexual changes and often do not get adequate support to manage sexual dysfunction.
Some helpful post cancer options to improve one’s sexual functioning may be:
– Talk to your doctor about the sexual side effects.
– If medical treatment is insufficient, talk to a sex therapist with specialty in health related sexual problems.
– Be willing to talk with your partner about the effects of cancer on your sex drive and any change in your feelings about your body.
– Be willing to let your partner talk with you about their feelings about role changes from lover to caretaker.
– Be patient with yourself and be patient with your partner!