Sex and Intimacy
Lifestyle Considerations With Breast Cancer
Many women diagnosed with breast cancer ask, “Will my lifestyle and
relationships change if I have an operation or other treatments?”
While reminders of your treatment may linger (such as surgical scars), be assured that your overall quality of life after breast cancer treatment can return to normal. However, age and treatment type can affect your individual outcome.
Some studies suggest that younger women, about 1 in 4 breast cancer survivors,
may have greater difficulty adjusting to the stresses of breast cancer and its
treatment than older women. These difficulties can affect emotional and social
functioning, and may even lead to feelings of isolation. For some young women,
chemotherapy may cause early menopause or sexual concerns, which can be very
distressing on their own. Counselling and support groups designed specifically
for younger survivors can help them cope with these issues.
Regardless of age, women who have had chemotherapy may notice a slight decrease in certain areas of function. Your doctor can better explain what to expect after treatment.
Keeping Your Sexuality Healthy
Sexuality is often a major concern for women with breast cancer. While there are
several factors that can increase your risk of sexual problems, there are also
many ways to ease their impact.
Physical changes from operations or treatments make many women less comfortable
with their bodies. Looking at and touching yourself or seeking the support of
others (preferably before operation) can help you regain confidence.
Some breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can change a woman's
hormone levels and may negatively affect sexual interest and/or response.
Involving your partner as soon as possible after your operation and openly
communicating feelings, needs and wants, can help create intimacy with or
without sexual activity.
Diagnosis in your 20s and 30s can be especially difficult, as choosing a partner and starting a family are often very important during this period. Accepting your new body image and turning to friends for support can help renew your plans for the future.