Many women experience changes in their sex lives after cancer treatment. These changes are often caused by changes to your body – from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, or by the effects of certain medicines. Pain, loss of interest, depression, or cancer medicines can also affect sex drive. Sometimes emotional issues can contribute to sexual problems. Examples include depression, anxiety, body image issues after surgery, and stress between you and your partner.
For many women, their breasts play an important role in the pleasure that they and their partners experience in lovemaking and in their personal sense of sexual attractiveness. Some women may feel not only that their body has betrayed them, but that the treatment process has invaded them as well. After months of treatment, women may feel disconnected from the pleasure their bodies once provided them. Body image issues may also affect how survivors view sex and their own sexuality.
When a woman with breast cancer is struggling with a loss of desire or with feelings that she is unattractive, it is especially important that she has a healthcare provider who is willing to discuss her symptoms and, when possible, offer her treatment and guidance. Support groups and candid discussion with counselors may also help women address problems with physical intimacy.
Open communication between a woman and her partner is also very important. Partners may be unsure of the best way to show support and affection and may wait for cues from the woman about her readiness to resume a sexual relationship. Discussing each person's fears, expectations, and comfort with intimacy can help.