Breast cancer and its treatments may affect sexual functioning based on physiological and psychosocial mechanisms. A recent study examined various aspects of sexual and psychosocial functioning before surgery, six months and one year after surgical treatment in 149 women with breast cancer. Of interest is that they also compared sexual function with an equal number of women of the same age who did not have breast cancer.

Compared to before surgery and to women without breast cancer, women after breast cancer reported significantly more problems with sexual desire and arousal six months after surgery. Problems were greater for women who had mastectomy versus lumpectomy.

Interestingly, the study found that the women with breast cancer reported significantly more consensus in their relationship with their partners than the non-breast cancer group. The threatening nature of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment may increase vulnerability in relationships that results in re-evaluating the importance of the other person in their life and the necessity of agreement on relevant issues between partners.

The issues and concerns related to body image and sexuality are not unique to breast cancer survivors, but breast cancer and its treatment can produce a wave of physical, emotional and social changes that can greatly challenge breast cancer survivors’ quality of life. Join us this month for our education event, led by TurningPoint’s counselor Karen Savrin, MSW, as we explore these challenges and consider practical ways to address them.

Aerts, L. et al. Sexual functioning in women after mastectomy versus breast conserving therapy for early-stage breast cancer: a prospective controlled study. Breast. 2014:23(5):629.