Sexuality after breast cancer: Understanding the link


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in India. It is more common in young women who are sexually active. In the absence of a holistic approach, the sexual health aspect is often overlooked during the treatment of breast cancer. Though sexuality after breast cancer is of a lesser priority compared to the treatment of breast cancer itself, it is not avoidable.

Sexual health issues faced by breast cancer patients

Clinical observations have shown that breast cancer patients face a range of sexual issues after their treatment. Women who are affected by breast cancer experience problems in their sexual life. The trauma of the disease itself can have an impact on how women function in their intimate relationships and their psychosexuality. Sexual dissatisfaction is commonly seen after treatment of breast cancer patients, this places significant stress on young women, especially if one is on anti-hormonal therapy.

According to experts, women preferred a multi-modal approach to education over a one-size-fits-all strategy. Apart from that, they prefer options tailored toward different breast cancer patient population that can meet their requirements and sexual demands.

sexuality after breast cancer
Know more about breast cancer and your sexual health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The several forms of sexual dissatisfaction are in terms of menopausal symptoms, negative body image, diminished desire, dyspareunia, vaginal dryness, stressful interpersonal relationships, stigma of cancer and anxiety about disclosure of cancer diagnosis.

Also read: Breast cancer lumps: Difference between benign and cancerous

A survey found that 80 per cent of breast cancer patients did not receive any communication about sexual health during their clinical discussions. These patients also felt that the optimal time of discussion about sexual health is during the comprehensive treatment, either in form of written communication online or by a brochure. There is a need for a structured clinical program for young cancer survivors addressing all aspects of health and treating patients holistically and comprehensively, addressing every aspect of a patient’s health.

Treatment for women experiencing sexual issues due to breast cancer

Useful treatments in patients with these problems are cognitive behavioural therapy and couple counselling which may alleviate these symptoms and result in better sexual health. Sexuality must be approached as part of cancer treatment, which can improve the quality of life of cancer patients. This can be done by a multidisciplinary team approach. It is often recommended that partners are included in the support programs, which may include exercises to regain confidence or interventional techniques with positive reinforcement.

sexuality after breast cancer
Fix your lack of sexual health knowledge. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Takeaway

Breast cancer has an impact on a variety of sexual elements, including altered bodily functions and perceptions of femininity. Sexual dysfunction caused by breast cancer should be identified and treated using a systematic approach with input from other disciplines. The impact of medical and surgical treatment on the sexuality of breast cancer survivors should be evaluated by healthcare providers.



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