Caring for Your Sexual Health After Breast Cancer
Surviving breast cancer can leave your body feeling war-ravaged. Not only do you have to learn a new way to mentally live in the world but you must also find a way to live physically. And part of your physical health is taking care of your sexual organs – which we don’t talk about enough.
Your sexual health after breast cancer needs to be handled carefully – both your physical and mental wellness depends on it. Although breast cancer treatment has positive long and short-term outcomes, there are side effects that might seem less desirable such as:
- Chemo therapy induced early menopause
- Physical changes including scars, hair loss, low libido, and vaginal dryness
- Mental changes like low self-image, depression, anxiety, and lack of energy
- Changes to the sexual organs, specifically like removal of breasts or ovaries
If you have survived breast cancer and you are wondering about how to maintain your sexual health after treatment, read on to learn 7 ways to take care of and maintain your sexual organs after breast cancer:
- Use it or lose it. If you don’t have regular intercourse the vaginal vault closes down. However, after breast cancer, vaginal dryness can make sex painful. Therefore, lubricants might be helpful. Keeping a calendar with your partner and sticking to it helps with regularity. And if you don’t have a partner, there are many tools you can use to keep things working well. Keeping the muscles in your vaginal area healthy is crucial to your overall sexual health.
- Create a toolbox. With or without a partner, there are tools to use, including lubricants, that can help increase the strength of your pelvic floor and vaginal walls.
- Learn about it. Babeland not only sells tools to help with your vaginal health, they also do talks for Fred Hutch about sexual health. Be proactive and learn what you can.
- Communicate with your partner. There is a high divorce rate for women with cancer. Communication and intimacy may feel like a lot of extra work, but it’s a huge piece of the puzzle. Tell your partner how you are feeling both physically and mentally. This is about teamwork.
- Boost your libido. 95% of my patients report having low libido. Women with breast cancer cannot take testosterone, and therefore it will not make a difference. However, intimacy with your partner has a huge effect on sex drive. This is the perfect opportunity to find romance in your relationship.
- Look for joy. Women report that when they feel beautiful, they also feel better. How a woman feels about herself and whether a woman feels sexy and good in the relationship she’s in fuels her desire to pursue sexual health. This can mean focusing on exercise, nutrition, among other cosmetic solutions that can increase self-esteem.
- Encourage outside support. Spouses and caregivers don’t get as much help, attention, or emotional support as the breast cancer patient. Help your partner take care of themselves if they need additional support after your breast cancer treatment.
There are many side effects to breast cancer treatment relating to the decline in sexual health. Many of these side effects are manageable if you make the effort to address them. Most importantly, don’t feel ashamed about the ways your body has changed. It’s important to talk to your treatment team about adverse symptoms affecting your sexual health. As a naturopathic physician specializing in the treatment of women with breast cancer I can help you with integrative solutions to alleviate your symptoms and help you feel confident about your sexual well-being after breast cancer.
Please contact Dr. Laura James ND, FABNO if you live in the Bellingham, Washington area and would like to learn more about a naturopathic approach to your wellness, please call 360-738-3230 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.