“There are two big taboos in conversations about breast cancer. One is death. The other is sex.” from page 171 of Marc Silver’s highly-recommended book: “Breast Cancer Husband, How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond.”
Prof Elna McIntosh, our Mentor at MSH has survived breast cancer twice! She can also write a book about breast cancer. She also loves talking to patients about sex, so she is the perfect person to give us some advice regarding sex and breast cancer during BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH!
What should I do if I have concerns about self-image or sex after breast cancer?
If you have sexual concerns, the following suggestions may be helpful:
- If you have a partner, talk with him or her about how you are feeling. An open, honest talk can lead to greater understanding about your feelings related to your cancer treatments.
- Consider talking about your concerns with your gynaecologist or other health care professional. If you are not sure what to say, you can begin with a statement like the following:
– I am having some concerns about my sex life.”
– I am worried about how having cancer is affecting my sex life with my partner.”
– I am feeling sad because I do not feel the same way about sex.”
– How do I tell my partner that I feel unattractive since my cancer treatment?”
– Sex is painful for me. What can I do?”
- Give yourself time to adjust. Cancer treatment is a life-changing experience and may affect your self-image. If you have a partner, you may want to focus on other ways of being close rather than sexual activity.
Should I still see my Gynaecologist or a Sexual Health Practitioner (SHP) after my breast cancer treatment?
Yes! Your SHP/gynae perform well-woman exams and screenings and your sexual health remains a very important component of your overall health, even if you have had breast cancer.. You can discuss the following with your them:
- Birth control methods that are safe for breast cancer survivors
- Your future plans to have children and possible treatments if you have difficulty getting pregnant
- Your sexual health and sexual satisfaction
- Your need for other cancer screenings
- What you can do to prevent breast cancer recurrence and to stay as healthy as possible.
Sometimes they are also just a shoulder to cry on!
Is there help available for sexual problems after breast cancer?
Certainly! The first thing you can do is to buy a decent silicone lubricant. You can also consider using a vaginal moisturiser. There are certain products that can be prescribed by doctors, under certain circumstances, with the permission of your oncologist that can also be very helpful. Reach out if you need help!
Written By Prof Elna McIntosh