Sexual Health – the Impact of Breast Cancer on Sexuality

Sexual Health – the Impact of Breast Cancer on Sexuality

Human sexuality is influenced by a variety of factors. These include both physical and psychological aspects. The organs, nervous system and hormones all help drive our sexuality. Other influential factors include an individual’s emotions, thoughts and basic character. Being diagnosed with cancer can have an enormous impact on both personal and intimate relationships. People affected by cancer often suffer from the symptoms listed below, which in turn can have an impact on their sexuality.

Vaginal issues – breast cancer and sexuality

Vaginal issues are not exclusive to people with cancer, but cancer can trigger and intensify these problems. Symptoms can include vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal elasticity, as well as increasing the chance of vaginal infections.

Vaginal dryness

A woman’s genital area is normally protected by the release of a milky white fluid. During sexual intercourse, this fluid also helps protect against friction and injury. Cancer treatments and the imbalance of hormone levels associated with them can cause vaginal dryness to occur, in other words a lack of moisture in the vaginal mucosa. Using personal lubricants can be an effective solution in counteracting this. Applying a lubricant can help moisturise and reduce vaginal dryness. pjur med would like to help cancer patients enjoy carefree sexuality with its selection of water-based and silicone-based lubricants recommended by doctors and pharmacists. Our use of natural and nature-identical ingredients ensures that our products are kind to the skin.

Reduced vaginal elasticity

Radiation is sometimes used to treat cancer, depending on the diagnosis. If the pelvic area undergoes radiation treatment, the vaginal mucosa may suffer as a result. Once these injuries heal, the vagina can lose elasticity. This can make sexual intercourse painful and at times, impossible. Doctors frequently recommend using personal lubricants to help gently moisturise dry mucosa and promote elasticity. Enjoying regular, pain-free sexual intercourse can also help contribute to higher elasticity levels and improved circulation. Vaginal dilators or vaginal trainers can also be used. These are inserted into the vagina like a tampon, helping to prevent adhesion and ensuring that the vagina retains its shape.

Vaginal infections

In addition to vaginal dryness and injuries to the vagina, cancer treatment can also lead to vaginal infections. Radiation therapy to the pelvic area, chemotherapy or the changing hormone levels associated with cancer can leave the genital area vulnerable to infection. This can often cause an itching or burning sensation or a noticeable discharge in the genital area. Vaginal infections can be easily diagnosed and treated by your doctor. In order to prevent an infection from reoccurring, it is common to treat partners as well. The following can also help prevent infections:

  • Avoiding the use of soaps and lotions in the genital area, as they can negatively affect the vaginal environment.
  • Avoiding panty liners and synthetic undergarments, as they can increase the chances of an infection. Wearing silk or cotton underwear is recommended.

Pain

Changing body image

Cancer treatment places the body under an enormous amount of strain. Undergoing multiple treatments can have a tremendous physical and psychological impact on the patient. The pain experienced during lovemaking is not the only factor affecting the sexual life of the person involved. Pain can also contribute to a loss of desire, which has a negative impact on sexual encounters. Regardless of the specific kind of pain felt, it is important to consult a medical professional for advice. A loss of sexual health and the negative impact it can have on a relationship is something that can be treated. Sex therapist counselling can help restore a sense of physical and sexual well-being. It is often the little things that help – experiencing the physical contact of a massage or enjoying an intense, intimate conversation with your partner.

Chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue is another known side effect of cancer and cancer treatment. The individual feels constantly exhausted, which can affect their daily lives. As well as their sex lives. A balanced diet, exercise and adequate sleep can help counteract the effects of fatigue. If this does not help, it is recommended to seek the advice of a medical professional.

Changing body image

Cancer treatment can also affect an individual’s body image – as is particularly evident in breast cancer patients who have had a breast partially or completely removed. To a large extent, a woman’s breasts define her sense of femininity. When this femininity is altered or attacked by cancer, it can profoundly affect her self-image. Learning to live with the immense consequences that cancer leaves behind is a fact of life that many survivors have to face. This doesn’t happen overnight and it is important to allow time for healing and learn to love your body again, step-by-step. This process will make carefree sexuality possible again.

All of these factors can put a strain on the sex life of the diagnosed person and their partner. Enjoying a fulfilling sex life can enhance a person’s feeling of vitality and it is important to work on maintaining or revitalising these intimate experiences after surviving an illness or during the process.

From October 2016, pjur will support the McGrath Foundation in Australia, which raises money to place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities right across Australia and to increase breast awareness in young people. These nurses help guide and support cancer patients through all the issues mentioned above.

Take a look at our video of Dr. Shannon Chavez and pjur med:


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