Cancer Couples Tackle Issues With Intimacy

Photo courtesy of and Rosen Georgiev

Cancer Couples Tackle Issues With Intimacy

Regardless of whether a woman undergoes mastectomy or lumpectomy to treat her breast cancer, sexual intimacy can create worries and fears that cancer couples don’t expect.

About half of breast cancer survivors report self-esteem and body image issues.  These problems range from the physical, such as vaginal dryness and lack of desire, to more emotionally-based concerns, such as difficulty getting a partner to understand their feelings.

Previously a Taboo Subject

These subjects, definitely not discussed with anyone in earlier decades, can and should be discussed openly with your doctor.  Increasingly, treatment centers are offering programs that focus on sexual side effects of cancer treatments.  I’d also highly recommend that cancer couples talk about their worries and concerns together as well.

One couple I knew were having real difficulties – the woman had undergone a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction and no longer felt desirable.  She didn’t even want her husband to see her without her clothes on.  He felt pushed away, rejected.  They finally went to a counselor and worked out their worries and concerns.  I applaud their resolve and determination to work through these issues, because they are very real and should not be ignored.

Communication is Key

I strongly recommend that cancer couples open up a dialogue about intimacy as soon as possible after diagnosis. Couples and those in new relationships should do their best to discuss the intimacy challenges that cancer treatment can bring.  Because it does impact the relationship in a very real way, and communication holds the key to improving intimacy.

Some Advice

It’s really important for cancer couples to keep in mind that treatment may affect a partner’s desire for intercourse, but not their need for physical closeness.  There’s no substitute for a hug, a kiss, a gentle cuddle or even just hand-holding.  It lets your partner know that you still love and care for them, that you want to be with them.

Sex and intimacy will not be same as it was before breast cancer.  With a commitment to each other, however, you can create new ways to express your mutual love.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 


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