Breast cancer 'affecting sex lives'
14 October 2013 09:23
More than half of women aged under 55 with breast cancer say their sex lives have got worse
Research shows the sex lives of breast cancer sufferers get worse as a result of the disease or treatment.
Macmillan Cancer Support found that more than half of women aged under the age of 55 with breast cancer are less intimate in the bedroom.
Some 54% of those polled said their sex lives had suffered compared to 30% of women of all ages living with the disease.
A lower sex drive (69%) was the main reason for having sex less often, while body consciousness (45%) was another contributing factor. Others blamed it on their partner not wanting to have sex as much (16%).
In some cases, women with breast cancer had sex less often because it was too physically painful (16%).
"Surgical wounds or skin damage from radiotherapy can cause some breast cancer patients' chests to be tender for a time, making some sexual positions painful," explained Jennifer Gorrie, cancer information nurse specialist at Macmillan Cancer Support.
"Sexual intercourse can be uncomfortable too due to chemotherapy or hormonal treatments like tamoxifen causing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness."
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with around 570,000 women currently living with the disease nationwide.
Of the 532 women surveyed, 30% who were diagnosed 10 years ago or more confessed they had sex less frequently as a result of their cancer.
Dr Daria Bonanno, consultant clinical psychologist at the charity, said: "The impact of a waning sex life can be tough, chipping away at a patient's self-esteem and, in extreme cases, leading to depression or contributing to a relationship breakdown."
But it doesn't have to come to this.
"There are practical ways breast cancer patients can ease the discomfort so they can have a healthy sex life," added Gorrie.
"They should speak to their GP or cancer specialist for help or get advice from Macmillan Cancer Support."
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