The sex life of women surviving breast cancer

ABSTRACT

The diagnosis of breast cancer elicits diverse emotional responses in patients and partners. Surviving cancer
has raised new needs and caretakers must understand the medical and psychological latent effects of
oncology therapy. Improving patients’ well-being is crucial as 19 million survivors are expected in the
next decade in the United States alone.

In general, sexuality contributes to one’s well-being but when it is
disrupted by the occurrence of cancer, women withdraw emotionally, no longer feel desirable due to
esthetic damage, and become overwhelmed by the thought of sex. Alopecia and mastectomy elicit feelings
of unattractiveness affecting even some women with nipple sparing mastectomy. Couples who share
the psychological distress of experiencing cancer should be logically included in survivorship interventions.
Hence, any support offered to the couple improves their ability to cope significantly. Treatments
causing premature ovarian failure as well as adjuvant endocrine treatments deepen the effects of hypoestrogenism
on the genital modifications of arousal. Sexual rehabilitation with vaginal dilators and sensate
focus exercises help to lessen pain, and reduce the couple’s anxiety toward sex.

In conclusion, caregivers
must realize that surviving women are often reluctant to voice their needs, thus, efficient interventions
must be available to everyone.