Breast cancer can be a frightening diagnosis, and with it comes various treatments that can be as difficult to endure as the diagnosis itself. In Western culture, the female breasts are often thought of as symbols of femininity and are tied to a woman’s sense of sexuality. A diagnosis of breast cancer begins a physical, psychological, and spiritual journey which can extend well beyond the treatment and recovery phases.
Going through breast cancer treatment and recovery may impact sexuality, intimacy, and personal relationships.
Initial reactions to the diagnosis of breast cancer often revolve around fear of the unknown. Management of treatment effects becomes the most important goal at first. Long-term survival and adjustment typically take a front seat to sexual intimacy.
Concerns about sexual intimacy vary from woman-to-woman. For the same individual, concerns vary over time and can depend on age, the stage of cancer, treatment effects, coping skills (which can vary on any given day), support systems, emotional investment in your breasts, and the quality of your relationship with your partner.
It’s important that you tend to your physical, psychological, spiritual, and sexual being.
That’s not to say that sexual intimacy needs to be at the top of the list of issues to be addressed. But at some point in the process, better sooner than later, the impact that breast cancer has on your sexual relationship must be talked about.
Discuss when to resume sexual relations with your surgeon. Generally, relations can resume when your surgical incisions have healed and your overall sense of well-being has improved.