With the news that Giuliana Rancic is having a double mastectomy I’ve decided to delve into an often avoided topic in breast cancer. How it can effect your sex drive and what you can do to revive it.
Sometimes doctors are so strongly focused on trying to keep a patient alive, that they forget about the quality of life that someone will have after they’ve overcome cancer. As a nurse, I often hear the worries and complaints that these patients have. A major one for breast cancer survivors is a lack of libido. Why does the libido suffer with breast cancer and mastectomies? A number of different reasons.
Reason for loss of sex drive.
- Chemotherapy. Because chemotherapy works at killing cancer by attacking the fastest growing cells in the body, not only do cancer cells get blasted, but sometime this can lead to other areas of the body being attacked. Places like the mouth, the vagina the rectum often develop ulcers, which makes many different kinds of sex too painful to have.
- Medically induced menopause. Unfortunately this is a real risk for women who have to undertake chemotherapy. Menopause means that you stop having your period, your body doesn’t produce as much natural lubricant and the sex drive can disappear for quite a while.
- Depression. If you’ve lost one or both breasts, this can have a massive effect on your psyche. It’s natural to grieve the loss of your breasts. They are a part of a woman’s sexuality and it can take a while to learn how to feel like a sensual being again.
- Physical exhaustion. The exhaustion of battling cancer, having major surgery and the recovery time your body alone needs can be quite a while. When you’re busy getting well, sex is often the last thing on your mind.
So that’s the bad news, the good news? There are ways to get your libido back.
Here’s how to revive your sex drive.
- Hormone evaluation. If your sex drive has taken a nose dive, get your hormones checked. If they’re way down, your doctor should be able to prescribe something to get them back in a healthy range.
- Lubricants. If you’ve gone through medically induced menopause and you’re feeling dry, it might be time to start trying different lubricants. I highly recommend looking at ones that are the most naturally based, as they are less likely to give you bad side effect.
- Support groups. If you’ve gone through menopause, there are great online blogs and in person support groups for women who’ve gone through early menopause. This is a great place to connect and be understood by women who have really been there.
- Therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you properly process the loss of your breasts and help you process your feelings around the “new normal” that you’re adjusting to.
- Time. It’s a biggie. Your body really does need time to heal. Don’t try penetrative sex yourself until you’re ready.
- Other sexual acts. There are a lot of things that can help you and your partner to feel intimate that don’t involve penetration. In some ways this can bring a new spark into a relationship, you have to go slow and do things that you might not have done since you were first dating. Touching and kissing, massaging or mutual masturbation, even watching adult videos can help you feel sexual, without feeling pushed into something before you’re ready.
- Talking with your partner. It doesn’t matter if you’re with someone new or someone you’ve been with for twenty years. Keeping your lover informed about where you’re at physically will ease any unspoken tensions that could be building from the lack of sex. Don’t push away your partner, talk to them and let them know how they can help you.
As always, with any surgery or medical issue, always see your own doctor and talk to them about your medical concerns. It’s your body and your health, don’t let anyone brush off questions or concerns about your sex drive. Having good sex and intimacy is an important part of any adult life.