Breast cancer and sexual dysfunction: hitting close to the heart.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and treated, sexual satisfaction can easily fall to the back burner when it comes to conversations with doctors. After all, when cancer is in the picture, ‘survival mode’ and health concerns may preclude sex as a priority or recommendation. However, once the dust settles after treatment and life goes back to a new normal, many women see dramatic changes in their sex lives. Though they may feel grateful to be alive, it doesn’t undermine the effect that sexual dysfunction may have on their relationships and the way they feel about themselves.

A recent survey by the Macmillan Cancer Support has revealed that one in two breast cancer survivors under the age of 55 reports that her sex life has suffered as a result of having the disease and treatment. Out of the 532 surveyed women who have had breast cancer surgery, most reported having a decreased sex drive; nearly half reported that they felt more self-conscious of their bodies, and one in six reported that sex had become physically too painful following chemotherapy or surgery.

Fortunately, there are sexual dysfunction interventions that are safe for breast cancer survivors. However, many breast cancer survivors do not discuss sexual dysfunction with their doctors because they feel uncomfortable; some even feel guilty complaining about sex, thinking it may sound trivial in comparison to what they just went through. Perhaps if we work to increase awareness around breast cancer and sexual dysfunction, conversation around this issue will be normalized and women will feel more comfortable discussing their sex lives post-cancer; both with their doctors as well as the people close to them.

Having breast cancer can throw a monkey wrench into a woman’s sex life. Let’s discuss, so that our friends and family will know there are tools that can repair it.

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