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Sex & Intimacy With Breast Cancer
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Andie_WebMD_Staff posted:
There's no denying that the sexual side effects of breast cancer can linger long after treatment is over, but there is sex after breast cancer!

Self image is a top concern, but even as you get comfortable with the "new you" in the mirror, other parts of your body may be causing you problems in the bedroom.

Take a moment to read through this article then come back to share your thoughts.

Has your self-image since being diagnosed affected your sex life? Has chemo had a menopausal affect on your body? What has helped you to get the fire back in your intimate life?
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joaneh responded:
I have read multiple articles containing similar advice from organizations like Susan G. Komen, Am. Cancer Society, et al. No matter what, I cannot "make friends" with my (so-called temporary) scar, I am NOT comfortable with the new me (one new boob and one scar), and I feel hideously maimed, and since I wasn 't allowed to move at all for 6 months I gained a lot of weight so I'm chubby to boot. Tamoxifen has side-effects such as vaginal dryness. Sometimes I feel so frustrated and think, "First they took away my Happy Pills (progesterone), then they took away my boobs, then they took away my vagina!!" And then I feel guilty for feeling that way because I should feel nothing but gratitude for not having to undergo chemo and/or radiation. Then the fact that I feel guilty irritates me because...can't I feel sad,too? And they can put things on Mars but they can't come with a way to dissolve the scartissue so we can get on with the re-construction of the second breast? Aug. 2010 I had a bilateral nipple-sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, but the necrotic right nipple and the exercises caused the Alloderm to tear so the implant had to be removed. June we were going to do the surgery, August, now Dec/Jan. I really feel guilty for maybe "being on a pity-pot" at times instead of having an attitude of gratitude. But I look yucky.
 
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judyfams replied to joaneh's response:
You are allowed to feel angry, frustrated, sad and mad for all you've had to endure.
However, you need to know you do not look yucky! Would you describe the vets who have come back from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, missing body parts and maimed (your word) be described as yucky? Their scars are recognized and honored by society, you scars are not visible so society does not know what you are going through. You too have your war scars that make you look different from others, but your war was against cancer and you won!
You are allowed to vent here and we all understand that, but sometimes the venting needs to be dealt with by a professional. You sound depressed and I think you would benefit from speaking to a professional who deals with women who are fighting breast cancer. Speak to your doctors about finding such a professional. I also think you would benefit from joining a support group - call your hospital or breast center to see if they have one - if not maybe you can start one!
You know that self worth is not measured by dress size or the number of breasts you have. You are an important, worthwhile person and YOU need to believe that
Please take some proactive measures to help youself. In the meantime come back here and talk to us whenever you need too.
Good luck and let us know how you are - we all feel your pain.
Judy
 
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rachael67 replied to joaneh's response:
Two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, 70% of cancer survivors reported having problems related to sexual function............!!!!!!

Does this sound familiar? You're are definitely NOT alone!! If feeling this way must be accompanied by guilt, then we'd better start taking numbers as our line is going to be more than a mite lengthy! No!!! Many of us feel cheated! Many of us feel that we barely have one thing done to us when another is demanded. One med to cure one thing before another med is added to reduce the effects of the first!

In a world that considers only the beautiful, the wealthy, the important to be acceptable, being less in any of those areas certainly seems to exclude the majority of us!

A critical health issue can certainly deplete your energy as well as your spirit; to retain a strong self-image in such circumstances is asking a great deal...if not the impossible! SO.......

GO AHEAD AND CRY AND VENT AND HAVE PITY PARTIES!!!! YOU HAVE MORE THAN EARNED EACH!!!!!

(You might want to take a look at another WebMD article while you are preparting for your next pity party. It is entitled "Sex Complaints Common After Breast Cancer" Type it into the main search box at the top. In it they state: "Sexual problems are among the most common and least talked about side effects of breast cancer treatment"!!!!!! So, if no one is talking about what almost everyone is experiencing, no wonder we feel alone and even more odd and ugly??!! Hells Bells, we are the only ones at the ball without a pretty gown, and even if no one else knows it, we sure do!!! )

One of the biggest supports some of us have discovered is our partner's reaction to the "new" us! They are often the mirrors by which we judge our worth. (NO! It should NOT lay within the power of another person, and if we are really strong people, it won't. However, I must plead that I am not among those who can rely on their inner mirror...The one I look into has been my DH for over 46 years. His affirmation is very important to me. Now, if it weren't there, what would I do? That I can't answer except to say that I hope I would be resiliant enough, strong enough to feel the security that I glean from his eyes. But, truly I can't say!)

You don't tell us if you have a partner or how old you are ...In each stage of our lives we face different challenges. Some more difficult than others. But, nonetheless, difficult! Please let us know just what stage you are in, and perhaps we can offer some more specific suggestions to help you get beyond this painful period?

I recall one of our very special members once broke the word "Intimacy" into "In To Me See"...Looking inside the one you love, past the exterior. (This applies whether it is our partner or ourselves who is looking.)

Another member speaking of the changes that breast cancer has made in her life wrote: "Me? No boobs. Complete hysterectomy. Scars out the wazoo. A freakish tan from radiation and bad hair cause of the chemo, not to mention, I look 20 years older than I am. Hard to believe last year I was running marathons!"

She, however, went on to write: "...but (now) the colors of my fabric are so much richer. So much more authentic."

None of us can really "get over" this journey...The only way is to "go through it"! And when we get to the other side, we deserve to have time to acclimate ourselves to all we have been though, applaud our courage and strength, and use any and all help ...Be it through breast cancer survivor programs like ACS TLC assistance or therapy, use of medication to help us thru the most difficult paths or a group like this to hold our hand and let us know we are not alone.!!

Please come here often and let us help support you. We are open 24/7 just for one another. Hope to see you again soon!

Blessings.
R
Just when the caterpillar thought her world was over, she became a butterfly!
Don't give up five minutes before the miracle!!
 
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joaneh replied to rachael67's response:
I don't remember if I ever replied to you and very, very, very helpful words of encouragement and support!!! My brain was in fog-mode. I am sorry if I didn't and it took me so long. The pathology report said: Left Breast-atypical ductal hyperplasia & Lobular Carcinoma in situ; Right Breast- LCIS ,DCIS, & Tubular Carcinoma. Stage I. So besides the bilateral mastectomy, I am also taking tamoxifen. My husband is veeeeeeery supportive, and I couldn't have asked for a better partner to go through this with me. Just today he said that he hadn't "pressed" for sex because he wanted me to know that he was sensitive to my feelings. He also reminded me that even after the next surgery in a month we just found out Tue, I will still have scars and I will have to accept those! This is true. And things could be worse, I know. I am not always like this. But I don't like how my chest feels, I'm always uncomfortable, and I don't like how I look. I don't like to get out of the shower and see all that. Constantly. And I know that perhaps a decreased sex-drive is part of getting "older"-I am 43-but I don't like to buy into a lot of stereotypes, either.. I think attitude can make a huge difference!! So I am going to make an effort to be here more often, and sharein and pass on the love, !!
God bless you,
Joan
 
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joaneh replied to judyfams's response:
Thank you, Judy. There is no BREAST cancer support group here, although a cancer support group (I live in a town of 2200 peeps) in the next town. I haven't gone for 3 reasons: (1) I would feel guilty about feeling bad when other people have to go through chemo and radiation, and I don't; (2) I would feel guilty for being there with only Stage I carcinoma; and (3) I worry that then the cancer will define me. Make sense? Momentarily I'd like to "ostrich" it and think, well, that was last year, and other than the upcoming expander surgery, and continuing with tamoxifen along with other meds & supplements I take, that will make this all "past.".
No, I felt guilty for thinking I looked yucky everytime I saw a PSA for the Wounded Warrior Project, and saw those amazing videos/stories of courage and persistence. I feel horrible for them, and yet I don't think they look yucky, although their loss of body part is a lot more visible than mine, so how dare I?? conundrum.
I also think that there might have been something else going on in the background when I recently plunged: I had just taken a course of prednisone for asthma/bronchitis/sinus infection the beginning of September, and my husband & I forgot to remind me that depression and rage WEEKS later are a side effect of that stuff. Well, HE didn't want to invalidate my feelings, bless his heart. I told him: pls, it's not invalidating when someone is going off the deep end and maybe blowing things out of proportion due to chemicals and I've asked you to remind me so I can maybe put things in perspective!!! Nooo. So next time I will put up a post-it note to self, .
Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. Can't talk to kids or church people about this. That irritates me, too: when someone else needs to unburden themselves I am there, and drop what I am doing. John says part of that is that I present such a strong personality that people don't take me seriously when I say I'm not doing well. Maybe that's partly true, but I watch people, and they hurry, and do the"Stiff-Upper_lip-I-Am-Not-Real" thing a lot, I think. Enough bitching,
Thank you again, I will try to be here more often to share & pass on.
Joan
 
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cindy12345678 replied to joaneh's response:
Joan,
I share in alot of the feelings that you have. I had chemo
and bi-lateral mast. in Jan. I got implants and I didn't feel
that they looked normal. I just got nipple reconstuction and
I like them alot better. They look alot better. I am also taking
tamoxifen. The vaginal dryness is bad. I went past vagifem
to the estring. It helps some.There is some risk to it but I was
really tired of that problem. It is still bad alot of the time. I
have found a couple of lubricants that help. There is one
called wet( you can get it at the store) The best one is
creme de la femme. You order it at amazing soulutions
web site.
As for bitching and whining , I get on the pity pot sometimes.
My ,look at what we have gone through! And what we
still have to deal with.Cancer is stressful! But we have to
remind ourselvels that we are still here and we are the
strongest woemen !
I am still not happy with my hair. It is still short and very curly!
I am glas that I have some hair , but it is still not normal
yet.I feel it sucks because everyone can see it! But I
keep sucking it up.
Are you going to get annother implant? We are pretty close in
age,. I think that is why we are having some of the same issues.
Its ok to have a meldtdown once in awhile!
Love and hugs ,.
Cindy
 
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rachael67 replied to joaneh's response:
Joan, so good to hear back from you...And even better to know you are married to one of the "good guys"!! What a difference that can make! (Please tell him we all are applauding him!!)

Glad to know that you will be here more often. As individuals we may not have answers, but as a community we can really make a difference! 'Sides, on these cold winter days that are approaching, the more gathered here, the warmer we all will feel! (For those of you who are having hot-flashes, we'll leave room on the outer perimeter!!)

Blessings.
Rachael
Just when the caterpillar thought her world was over, she became a butterfly!
Don't give up five minutes before the miracle!!


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