Can Breast Cancer Treatment Have Sexual Side Effects?
Breast cancer is a condition where a tumor or lump forms in a woman’s breast due to abnormal multiplication and division of body cells. The condition can be treated by either removal, shrinking or controlling the division of cancer cells.
Breast Cancer Treatment, Credit: flickr
There are various methods of treatment. They include:
Surgery: Surgical removal of the cancer tissue.
Chemotherapy: A procedure in which drugs and medicines to shrink or kill abnormal cancer cells.
Hormonal therapy: Shrinking or killing cancer cells by blocking the hormones required for their growth and division.
Biological therapy: Triggers or initiates your immune system to fight cancer cells or control the side effects of other treatment options.
Radiation therapy: High energy radiations are used to kill cancer tissues.
The course or choice of treatment will be recommended by your doctors. Each type of breast cancer treatment comes with different side effects. One of the most distinct side effects is problems with a woman’s sex life.
Sexual Side Effects
Breast cancer treatment does not directly affect your ability to perform sexual intercourse. Instead, it affects your hormone levels and may create a decline in a positive image. As a result, the woman loses a general disinterest in their sex life.
The most common side effects include:
Hair loss, Credit: pixabay
1) Lack of confidence
After chemotherapy, women become fatigued, nauseous, lose their hair, and experience excessive gain or lose weight. These side effects make them feel unattractive which adds to the decline of sexual interest due to lack of confidence. In addition, chemotherapy also leads to a decrease in the production of estrogen by the ovaries. As a result, they will experience menopausal symptoms.
2) Vaginal dryness
Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy can also cause abnormal levels of estrogen by damaging your ovaries. As a result, one will experience dryness and irritation around the vagina area.
Moreover, Radiation therapy can also cause the lining of your vagina to get inflamed and tender. As a result, sexual penetration becomes very painful and uncomfortable.
3) Menopausal symptoms
The decrease in estrogen levels also affects the blood supply to your vagina. When this happens the vaginal tissues become softer, thinner, and less sensitive to sexual stimulation.
Decreased blood supply also affects lubrication and thus, a woman will find it very difficult to achieve an orgasm.
Anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes, Credit: pxfuel
4) Undesired hormonal changes
Treatment like hormonal therapy greatly interferes with the normal balance of hormone levels in the body. Abnormal levels change cause behavioral changes in a woman like stress, depression, anxiety, hot flashes, sleeplessness, and fatigue.
Conclusion: Overall Impact on Sex Life
The overall impact due to these side effects leads to a loss of libido, the sexual desire or energy that a person possesses due to factors like difficulty reaching climax, pain during penetration, loss of sensation, and decrease in sexual hormones.
Moreover, there are various physical, emotional, and mental changes that follow a cancer diagnosis. It does not only cause a problem in sex and intimacy but also it other areas of a woman’s life.
These mental, physical, and emotional strains of dealing, managing, and getting treated for breast cancer make it very difficult for a woman to relax, be sexually aroused, and enjoy sexual intercourse.
Libido Credit: pexels
Managing Side Effects: Improving Sex Life
Symptoms like pain and vaginal dryness, itchiness and inflammation can be managed in order to help a woman enjoy painless and comfortable intercourse.
Doctors may recommend Topical anesthetics, ointments that will help ease out pain without compromising on sexual pleasure. It also serves as a lubricant to ensure easy penetration.
Another way to control vaginal dryness is to indulge in low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy to to reduce side effects and increase a woman’s sex drive or sexual desire.