Breast cancer can affect many aspects of your life including sex and intimacy. Your breast cancer treatment can have physical effects on your body but it can also affect you emotionally. Some women, for example, may feel pain and sensitivity after treatment. Some treatments can also cause menopausal symptoms to arise such as vaginal dryness and decreased sexual desire. Talking with your healthcare team about these issues can help you and your partner effectively manage these symptoms.
Treatment can change how you look and how you feel about your body. It is ok to experience lowered self confidence after surgery or chemotherapy and it can take some time to adjust to these changes. There are many ways to boost your self-esteem and feel better about your body. For instance, Look Good Feel Better offers free ‘makeovers’ to women going through a breast cancer diagnosis in order to help them feel more confident about their physical appearance. Feeling more confident about your body may boost your sexual desire.
Treatment can also bring about feelings of anxiety or depression. This can also diminish your sexual desire. Speak with your healthcare team about ways to cope with these feelings.
Your diagnosis can impact new and existing relationships. Romantic relationships are unique to every person so coping with intimacy after breast cancer is different from couple to couple. It may be easy for you to discuss your feelings openly with your partner but for many, it may not. Talking with a counsellor may help make these conversations more comfortable.
If you are looking to start a new relationship after your breast cancer treatment it may feel overwhelming. Telling a new partner that you’ve had breast cancer can be difficult. When is the right time to tell them? How will he or she react? Single Women: Finding Your Way from breastcancer.org offers some helpful tips on how to navigate new relationships.
Communicating openly with your healthcare team about issues affecting your intimate and sexual relationships is essential in helping you adjust to your life after breast cancer. Consult with your cancer centre and healthcare team for resources available to you.
CBCN also has materials for an intimacy and sexuality workshop that interested individuals and groups can lead. Visit Publications and Resources for details.