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What If You Could Have Better Sex After Breast Cancer Treatment?
There isn’t a one-stop shop approach to resolving problems with sex after breast cancer treatment. This is mainly due to the broad range of diagnosis an treatment options for breast cancer. Mainly though we are concerned about a lack of sex after breast cancer!
Sex after breast cancer treatment is not normally raised as an issue by the medical profession who are understandably rather more concerned with saving your life, than you having a good bonk after it’s all done with. Perhaps it’s understandable, and all that really means is that you need to identify and be proactive in resolving the situation for yourself. The key word here is IDENTIFY. I’m saying that because the upset (bit of an understatement I know) caused by the diagnosis and treatment tends to throw your life off balance. One of the effects of this is not recognising when things are still off kilter, and of course if you don’t spot a problem, then you can’t take action to put it right can you.
There are so many different reasons why your sex life can go down the pan after breast cancer, and there are too many to cover in the one article. So, here we are going to focus on YOUR reduced sex drive and suggest a few ideas for getting it back again.
So, why could you have a reduced sex drive? Here are some possible explanations:
1. Hormone treatments like Tamoxifen, and chemotherapy can reduce your sex drive so you just don’t fancy it.
These drugs illicit a physiological effect much the same as inadequate food or taking sleeping pills. Your overall performance is reduced and your sense of health and well-being suffers. Interestingly, radiotherapy doesn’t appear to have the same effect.
2. The after effects of surgery, such as numb boob and non functioning nipples, or no nipples and no boob, can mean that a previously sexual part of your body has become a no-go zone because having it touched doesn’t feel nice anymore.
3. Both partners can feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about changes to your body.
You may also have to deal with letting go of the old parts (pun intended here) of your sexual routine. For instance, your partner may have loved nuzzling in the gully created by your breasts and that little comfort zone has now gone.
Sometimes there is more than this physical gap to overcome.
4. Vaginal dryness leading to reduced pleasure or even pain during intercourse. Dryness is often attributed to the after effects of chemotherapy and ongoing treatment by Tamoxifen. Vaginal dryness is also a symptom of the menopause. We cover advice about this in our programme and other articles but the first step is to ask your doctor for help.
Each of the above will have its own set of potential remedies but they can also combine to create the general feeling of not fancying sex or can’t be bothered. Here are a few tactics you can use to get it back again…
1. Much of our sexual desire is based on our visual, auditory and kinetic systems. So, you get a picture in your minds eye of an exciting sexual encounter, you remember sounds, or someone speaking sexy words to you, and finally you recall, and may even rekindle a feeling in your body. This ability to conjure up desire by visualising and remembering pasts events is crucial. And you can try it now by recalling a sexy moment you either experienced personally or watched in a film. Do you get a bit of a tingle in your tummy, or somewhere else? No, well give it time and keep practicing.
If you can’t remember anything right now then you can also induce it by using an outside stimulus. This is where porn is useful and remember, it must work because it’s one of the biggest markets in the world.
Just use the tools you’ve got (not pun intended). Start conjuring up real past experiences, or inventing new ones to induce that state of desire and get going right now. In a few days you could be cooking.
You may find keeping a diary useful. Use it to record any sexual feelings which crop up. Note down the time of day, what you thought about, what you saw in your minds eye, heard or felt, and if anyone was with you. If you review after a month or so, you may see a pattern emerging.
If nothings coming up for you them use porn or erotica. You will be able to find something to suit your personality and that of your partner. Of course you may have to go hunting around.
2. Are you feeling fearful that when you’re having sex your partner will be touching bits you don’t want touched anymore. Perhaps there’s other stuff you just don’t want to do as before such as undressing or hanging from the lampshades. That’s normal if you’re still feeling physically or psychologically sensitive to the changes and these underlying fears could be dampening or seizing up your desire.
You must tell your partner what has changed. What do you want now and what do you not want them to do? You’re reinventing your sex life after breast cancer. Your partner will not just get this stuff by osmosis and you have to spell it out otherwise they will get it wrong. How can they not? If they avoid your boob area then you’re likely to think they no longer want to touch or look at that part of you. On the other hand, if they steam in like before, but this time it’s into your numb, oversensitive and uncomfortable bits, then instead of erotic we have painful. My left boob area has only just rejoined the rest of my body and our sex life, and that’s a whole year after my radiotherapy ended.
Your partner will need proper information to get it right. Going rigid when you’re touched in the wrong place, or grimacing uncomfortably as they start to peel off your nightie really isn’t going to help the cause. Here are three suggestions to help you transition into a new sex life:
Grit your teeth and SAY exactly what it is you want
They will be doing their best to get it right so TRUST them
FORGIVE when they slip back into old habits because sometimes it can take a while (around 30 days) for a new habit to be formed. Get over it and get back on the job!
Your partner is making adjustments as well as you. REMEMBER this.
3. Attend to the small details and make an effort to create the right atmosphere. A sickness or upset can knock us off track and sometimes we seek out the comfortable. I mysteriously started wearing big knickers to go to my radiotherapy. Goodness knows why. The thing is, I was still wearing them months later whilst the skimpy strings I’d been sporting for years had somehow slid to the back of the draw. So, are you still in grannies knickers?
Start relaxing back into your sex life again. Hunt out and rescue those naughty nickers. If you didn’t have any then leave right now and buy some! Light some candles, have a bath, play Marvin Gaye, massage each other – whatever does it for you. You’re getting back into your sex life again by releasing all tension which might be building up around it.
This your chance to introduce new and invigorating elements into the old comfortable stuff of your courtship.
4. Visit a couples sex shop such as Ann Summers and just have a look around.
5. It’s an quirk of nature for many women that the less sex they have, the less sex they want. Once you get back in the saddle then you could be off again. So the final part is to get lubed up and JUST DO IT.
Sex after breast cancer can be as good, if not better, than before. So go for it.