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Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Practical Issues


Intimacy and Sexuality

Metastatic breast cancer can have a profound effect on your intimate relationships. A 2015 study found that 71 percent of metastatic breast cancer patients reported that their cancer had a significant impact on their sexual life. Your breast cancer treatment can have physical effects on your body but it can also affect you emotionally. Some women, for example, may feel pain and sensitivity from their treatment. Some treatments can also cause menopausal symptoms to arise such as vaginal dryness and decreased sexual desire. Talking with your healthcare team about these issues can help you and your partner effectively manage these symptoms.

Treatment can change how you look and how you feel about your body. Scars, skin changes from radiation, fatigue and weight changes are some side effects of treatment that may have a negative impact on your body image. It is ok to experience lowered self-confidence from surgery or chemotherapy and it can take some time to adjust to these changes. Speaking with an oncology social worker, or a loved one may provide the tools to help you cope with these feelings.

Your diagnosis can impact new and existing relationships. Romantic relationships are unique to every person so coping with intimacy while living with metastatic breast cancer is different from couple to couple. It may be easy for you to discuss your feelings openly with your partner but for many, it may not. Talking with a counsellor may help make these conversations more comfortable.

Starting a new relationship after a metastatic diagnosis may be overwhelming. Telling a new partner that you are living with breast cancer can be difficult. When is the right time to tell them? How will he or she react? How will my treatment and its side effects affect my ability to date? The Metastatic Navigator handbook from the Young Survival Coalition offers tips on how to navigate new relationships under Managing Relationships, page 90.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Sex and Intimacy session at their 2016 Conference on Metastatic Breast Cancer is another helpful resource for managing your physical and emotional needs while living with mBC.

CBCN also has materials for an intimacy and sexuality workshop that interested individuals and groups can lead. Visit Publications and Resources for details.

Communicating openly with your healthcare team about issues affecting your intimate and sexual relationships is essential in helping you adjust to your life with metastatic breast cancer.

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