Breast cancer and sex
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It’s time to talk about sex – before, during and after breast cancer

By Joanna Lobo Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 08:27
Having sex may not be your priority when you or your partner is undergoing diagnosis/treatment of breast cancer. Cancer and sex is something very few talk about – whether it is the benefits of sex or the sexual side effects of cancer treatment. Here are a few things to consider:

Having more sex may prevent breast cancer

While studies have proved that having more sex can lead to a longer life, now it’s coming to light that sex could also lower the risk of developing breast cancer. There are many reasons for this – sexual intercourse boosts the immune system and during this time the body releases hormones such as oxytocin and DHEA, which counteracts the effects of the stress hormone cortisol and helps calm your nerves and improves sleep – this is directly linked to higher immune functions.

Another advantage of having more sex is that your partner can help spot a number of conditions in women. If they love fondling your breasts, they may spot lumps or any irregularities in them, during an intimate moment.

Going to second base can help prevent cancerous cells

Research is showing that a little squeeze can actually stop cancerous cells from growing in breast tissue. That’s right: second base (touching of the breasts) has its advantages. Experiments have shown that regular squeezes may help malignant breast cells get back into alignment, creating a normal growth pattern.

Treatment will affect your sex life

After you undergo the treatment for breast cancer, your body is almost like a new one. There’s a loss of libido and chemotherapy can cause the ovaries to shut and menopause to strike early. The medication has side effects – vaginal dryness, mood swings and hot flashes. Hormone therapy may cause vaginal changes that cause painful intercourse. Breasts are an important part of many women’s sexual identity and if surgery has removed part of a breast, a whole breast or both breasts, it may make women less comfortable with their bodies.  

All these things combine to impact a woman’s sex life and physical relationship with her partner. Studies have found that many women have had little or no sex from the time of diagnosis through treatment and find it difficult to return to it post-treatment. Often, your partner may worry about how to be with you physically after treatment.

It’s possible to have sex, without intercourse

You may find it is more sexually satisfying to explore different ways to enjoy sexual intimacy. Try sex without intercourse. Explore your body using sensual and genital touching – either by yourself or with your partner. Use your hands to show your partner where to touch you and what arouses you. Move the focus to other areas of the body to help you feel sexually satisfied.

You may try watching porn, reading erotic fiction together or watching films to increase arousal. Alternately, get onto the sex toys bandwagon – you may find sex toys, such as vibrators and clitoral stimulators, helpful in finding out more about what gives pleasure. Vibrators can reach through the clouds of medications and treatments that have muted your body’s ability to get aroused.

Get help – it can save your sex life

A woman can feel sexy again, with the right help from family, her partner and if needed, medical professionals. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor about medicines that spur desire or increase lubrication. Look out for water-based lubricants, vaginal dilators or moisturizers that can improve dyspareunia (vaginal dryness). Your doctor can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications that do not interfere with sexual desire and a therapist can help you deal with body and image issues. Some therapy can be physical –women’s health physical therapy (WHPT) helps increase muscular stretch and healing pain points in the vagina.  

Some medical professionals can teach you about sexual positions that could make sexual intimacy possible, more comfortable or just less painful. It is possible to get back in the mood after cancer treatment. But, it will take time and may even require professional help. The trick is going slow and keeping things natural.

Do you have any queries on breast cancer and sex? Ask Love Matters on our Facebook page or visit our discussion forum - Let’s Talk.

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