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Sex after breast cancer: Get back in the sack!

Colleen E. Crane MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker based in Bozeman, Montana. Colleen is currently in private practice and specializes in working with adolescent girls and women.

Sex after breast cancer

You have made it through all of your treatments and been given a clean bill of health. Next on your list is reconnecting with your partner. Here are some common concerns that women and their partners experience after breast cancer treatment, and what you can do to help gets things back in the sack!

Mature couple in bed

1Hormones

Many women report that after breast cancer treatment they experience symptoms of menopause. The medications often prescribed to treat breast cancer and ones that are used for long-term treatment do affect hormones. Many times women report issues with night sweats, vaginal dryness and loss of muscle tone.

If you or anyone you know has experienced these symptoms following treatment, be sure to talk with your doctor. There are many natural options to help get you back on track. Some patients report that acupuncture and supplements have helped with managing night sweats. Lubricants can be used to help with vaginal dryness, but be sure to look for lubricants that are glycerin-free. Because glycerin is a sugar-based product, many women experience irritation when using these products after breast cancer treatment. Also, look for lubricants that are "estrogen-free." You can also visit a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic floor issues. These specialists can help you to learn to activate your pelvic floor muscles and also give you tools to use to help you learn how to exercise these muscles at home.

2Not feeling sexy in bed

Feelings about your body and sexuality after breast cancer are common concerns brought up by patients in recovery, especially if your treatment included a mastectomy. Talk with your partner about your concerns. Often we are more self-conscious about our bodies and sexuality than are partners are even aware of. Remember that sex doesn't always have to be the end result of intimacy. Spend time talking with your partner about how you feel. It means of night of snuggling, there is nothing wrong with taking it slow.

3Not being able to have children

Many cancer treatments change a woman's ability to have children. If you have concerns about your fertility and would like the option, discuss this with your physician immediately -- there are many more options today than in years past.

Whether or not they plan to have more children, some women after treatment feel sad about losing their reproductive abilities, which may lead to feelings of "not being sexy" anymore. Talk with your partner about what it means to you to move past that phase in your relationship.

Work on building intimacy together in other ways, too. It's normal to grieve the loss of what we once had, or could have had. If you think that your feelings are getting in the way of building intimacy with your partner, talk with your physician about getting a referral for a sex therapist. These professionals specialize in helping individuals and couples through medical treatments, while preserving their sexual relationships. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) can help you find a certified sex therapist. You can visit their website at www.aasect.org.

More on breast cancer recovery

The breast-cancer fighting kitchen
Helping friends beat breast cancer
Michael Douglas talks cancer recovery

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