Sunday 1 March 2020

BRiC's Collective Voice: "Let's Talk about Sex" or lack of it; 23rd Feb., 2020

‘Let’s talk about Sex’, or lack of it. How breast cancer impacts our sex lives.
“I don’t know where my libido is?” “I used to be sexual and have a full on firey sex life before breast cancer, but that has all gone now” “Sex? It’s all in the past.”

There are two major ways by which breast cancer affects our sexual health: it can demolish our libido, of course due to hormonal deprivation, and it can cause pain, atrophy, and soreness, probably also due to estrogen deprivation, so the two are not mutually exclusive.

“It is so painful that I try and put it off” “I cry after having sex” “ The creams and lubricants are OK but don’t make me feel sexy” “It is impossible at times.”
Then there is the issue of self-esteem and self-confidence, that is shattered through physical changes. Fatigue does not help either.

“I don’t look sexy”, and “I don’t feel sexy”. “surgery has left scars” “ I don’t feel confident about my body”. “I am exhausted”.

Failing to feel like what we used to be and what breast cancer has left of us in that department can impact heavily on our sexual health and our relationship with our partners:

“We have come to terms with it, that sex is something of the past.” “I think that he will probably leave because of this” “He is understanding but I do worry” “ I try and explain but it was so long ago that he isn’t convinced its psychological”.
For those of us in search for a new partner it also takes its toll:

“I’m not sure I’m going to find anyone who would put up with this”, “It is difficult to explain.”

The list continues…..

Sexual health does define a major part of our womanhood. The effects are multidimensional and can impact our self-esteem. For some of us the thought of having sex is terrifying, the pain that it leaves us with prevents us from initiating sex and as such we can get into a trapped cycle of avoidance.

The topic itself is not spoken about, it is not discussed with our oncologists as a possible side effect, in fact, the majority of us feel the same: that we cannot talk about it. The lingering effects are explained through Tamoxifen and the AIs that hinder sexual health considerably.

Women’s sexual health post breast cancer should be given the credit it deserves. In research you can see it discussed in passing, as part of a bigger package of problems we face, but it deserves its own stand as it defines a big part of who we are. There is a difference between choosing not to have sex and not being capable of having sex, because with the latter we have little to no control over it.

If you are a woman in the UK with breast cancer and wish to join our private psychoeducational group please message us here.


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