An important article recently came out in Anthropology magazine about the after effects of breast cancer on a woman’s sexuality. The article is about one woman’s research with breast cancer survivors in Spain. Many of the women report feeling an enormous impact on their sexuality after undergoing cancer treatment. A theme that kept coming up was how their providers did not inform them about the impact the treatment would have on their sexual health and often they did not know how to help them. It is my goal to disseminate as much information as possible to the women who need it. I think this population also must be targeted. It is difficult enough to go through cancer treatment and I think it is imperative that practitioners be educated about what they can do to restore the sexual health of their patients so they continue to engage in satisfying sexual relationships.
The most common complaints I hear from breast cancer survivors about are: loss of libido, vaginal dryness and pain with penetration. These are all things that women may commonly face after menopause any way. I often tell women that they need to create a new tool box for their sexual health. We can treat all these issues and we can educate them about how to do so.
Low libido: Can be treated with a combination of medications and behavior approaches.
Vaginal dryness: Can be treated with topical creams. There are hormonal and non-hormonal creams that can be very effective.
Pain with penetration: Can be treated with dilation. A set of gradually increasing cyclinders are given to each patient and they slowly increase in size so that they tissue gets stretched out and intercourse is no longer painful.
For many women, sadness and shame may surround these issues, therapy can be very important in this aspect of recovery. For some women who never had sexual issues it can be an enormous loss to now have to fight for something that was so easy before. For women where they faced problems previously, they may now feel too overwhelmed to tackle this additional problem.
The most frustrating part is that so much can be done and so few people know about the treatment. If you know of anyone who needs this kind of help please pass this information along. If you would like to read more about the study, click on the link below.