Sex after breast cancer surgery - advice

Guide4Living advice

Sex after breast cancer surgery has been something of a taboo topic in the past but studies show this is a big problem area for many women. The fact that so many people, even within the medical profession, can’t or won’t discuss it means the issue tends to be obscured by a thick fog of silence and embarrassment.

You might be feeling as sexy as a squashed slug if you’ve just had a mastectomy and the chemo has left you bald, nauseous and too weak to brandish a wet lettuce leaf. But at some point before, during or after your treatment sex is likely to become an issue.

The lucky few continue to enjoy active sex lives throughout their breast cancer treatment. Some couples say sex is better than ever after a bout with breast cancer because the sheer shock of it all made them value each other more than ever.

But if you’re one of the many women whose libido has done a runner after surgery or chemotherapy, rest assured that there are thousands of others having the same problem…and in many cases there are practical solutions.

Loss of sex drive in breast cancer patients can be due to a variety of factors. Feelings of anxiety, fear and depression are all perfectly normal but they’re not conducive to a night of passion. You might simply be too tired or sick for sex because of the chemo or you might be in discomfort or pain following surgery.

There can be psychological problems with body image after surgery, especially if you’ve had one or both breasts removed. And your partner is probably battling with a whole range of bewildering emotions which (if he’s like most men!) he has trouble expressing. It’s common for men to suffer eating and sleeping disorders after their partners are diagnosed with breast cancer; they may experience feelings of anger, fear and even guilt that they’ve somehow “allowed” this to the happen to the person they love.

In the unlikely event that you’re feeling like the hottest chick in town soon after breast surgery, it might take time for your partner to come to terms with what you’ve both been through. He may be frightened of hurting you or he may have the irrational but very real fear that you’re radioactive or that he can somehow catch cancer from you.

Besides these inevitable psychological issues, it’s a sadly neglected fact that loss of libido and other sexual complications are common side effects of chemo. The highly toxic drugs can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls, making sex uncomfortable if not downright painful. Chemo induced early menopause and the commonly used drug tamoxifen, taken by many women for years after breast cancer treatment, can also cause vaginal dryness and a loss of sex drive.

Time might be the only answer to some of these problems. But in many cases, there are positive steps you can take to recapture that elusive libido and start enjoying sex again.

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