Intimacy

Working on self-confidence and communication is paramount

Embrace your body, embrace intimacy

Be comfortable with your body

Physical changes, especially after breast surgery, can make some women less comfortable with their bodies. There may be a loss of sensation in the affected breast. Other treatments may change your hormone levels and may affect your sexual interest and/or response.1 For instance, you may go through temporary menopause if you have œstrogen-receptor positive breast cancer and taking hormonal therapy. The resulting vaginal dryness and other symptoms may make it painful to even think about having sex.2 Regardless of all the changes you are going through, learning to be comfortable with your body is key.

Restore sexual intimacy

Breast cancer will affect your life but also the lives of the people close to you, especially your partner. Whether you are in a relationship or starting a new one, restoring a sexual relationship may be stressful and may take time. Try to be patient, give yourself and your partner enough time to feel comfortable with this new situation. Talk about how you feel, your needs or expectations but also allow your partner to express his or her feelings. It is important. This honest conversation will install a safe place for each other.3 You may find out that your partner may not want to mention or initiate sex for fear of upsetting or hurting you.4 Even if your partner is not interested in sex at this time, he or she may want and need intimacy. There are many ways to maintain intimacy in a relationship, some of them being the following:

  • Plan a getaway weekend
  • Go out on dates
  • Schedule romantic evenings at home
  • Hold hands
  • Spend some quality time
  • Take walks together

Talk to your partner

Having concerns about sexuality during and after breast cancer is normal! Speak with your partner about what you’re comfortable with, and what you’re not. Your partner may worry about how to express love physically and emotionally after treatment, or is simply waiting for you to make the first move.4 Be open about how you feel and what you want. One thing to remember is that your partner is there for you. Each of you is coping in your own way, but you must come together to support each other.5 Remember, communication is key. Look for advice and support to help you cope with your concerns. Talking to your doctor or other members of your healthcare team is a good starting point.

Facing potential fertility issues

If you’re in child-bearing age, you’re probably worried about your ability to have children after treatment. Some treatments for breast cancer, including chemotherapy and hormone therapy, may indeed induce premature menopause and lead to impaired fertility.6

Again, don’t hesitate to discuss any fertility questions you may have with your doctor. International guidelines even recommend that physicians discuss, as early as possible, with all patients of child-bearing age the risk of infertility from the disease and/or treatment and their interest in having children after your cancer. They can even help you with informed fertility preservation decisions.7

  1. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/living-as-a-breast-cancer-survivor/body-image-and-sexuality-after-breast-cancer.html [Last accessed June 2017].
  2. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/breast-hormone-therapy-fact-sheet#q6 [Last accessed June 2017].
  3. https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/bcc120_in_it_together_web.pdf [Last accessed June 2017].
  4. https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/bcc120_in_it_together_web.pdf [Last accessed June 2017].
  5. https://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/About_Breast_Cancer/Tools_and_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Breast_Self_Awareness_Cards/What's%20Happening%20to%20the%20Woman%20I%20Love.pdf [Last accessed June 2017].
  6. https://www.bcna.org.au/news/2017/01/cancer-australia-recommendations-highlight-importance-of-fertility-discussions-before-breast-cancer-treatment/ [Last accessed November 2017].
  7. https://www.google.fr/ Lambertini, M, et al. BMC Med. 2016;14:1.

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