A recent review of research examined the relationship between breast cancer and body image and sexuality. Breast cancer treatment commonly alters a woman’s reproductive and sexual functioning, body integrity, and the ways in which she self-identifies as a sexual being. Research has shown that women with breast cancer experience significantly greater rates of sexual dysfunction and poorer body image than do healthy women. Unfortunately, most breast cancer patients are dissatisfied with the amount and quality of care they receive from their healthcare providers around sexuality. Although a substantial proportion of survivors experience difficulties with sexual functioning, reproduction, and body image, each woman’s experience is individual and influenced by a range of factors including age, stage of breast cancer, types of treatment and relationship status.

This review of research in the field suggests that a high proportion of women experience difficulties with sexual health and self-concept secondary to breast cancer, yet an overwhelming number report receiving inadequate or nonexistent care in these domains from their healthcare providers. The authors state that there is too wide a gap between the needs of this population and the healthcare system’s response to such needs. The authors conclude that oncology professionals across a range of disciplines must be better trained to identify, assess, and treat such difficulties, preferably using a multimodal approach that includes biological, as well as psychological and social strategies.

Please join us for this month’s education event that will focus on body image and sexuality during and after breast cancer treatment. You will gain a better understanding of the relationship between breast cancer and these issues and leave knowing you are not alone and with some strategies to help you address these issues.

Male DA. Sexual identity after breast cancer: sexuality, body image, and relationship repercussions. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2015 Dec 29. [Epub ahead of print]