Body Image and Sexuality After Breast Cancer

Feeling good about your body during and after breast cancer treatment

Women and sexuality after breast cancer

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When you first found out you had cancer, you were probably focused on treatment plans and survival. But after a while, other questions may have started coming up. Just as you need to know how treatment will affect nutrition, pain, and your ability to return to work, you also need to know how treatment women and sexuality after breast cancer affect your sex life. The first step women and sexuality after breast cancer to bring up the topic with your doctor or someone on your cancer care team.

Sex and sexuality are important parts of everyday life. The difference between sex and sexuality is that sex is thought of as an activity something you do with a partner. Sexuality is more about the way you feel about yourself as a woman.

The ability to feel pleasure from touch almost always remains. These are some organs that are in the pelvis, including sex organs and other nearby organs. Cancer of any of these organs or cancer treatment in this area can affect your sex life:. Has your cancer treatment changed the look of your outer genitals in any way? If so, take time to get used to the changes. Check to see if any areas are sore or tender. Share what you learn about yourself with your partner.

Work together to have sex that pleases you both. In order to talk about sex, it helps to know about the structures and hormones that are also involved with having children and how they work together. During the years when a woman can have children, her ovaries take turns each month producing a ripe egg. When the egg is released, it travels through the fallopian tube into the uterus. A woman can get pregnant naturally if a sperm cell travels through the cervix and joins the egg. The cervix is the gateway for sperm to get into the body and for a baby passing out of the body at birth.

If she gets pregnant, the lining stays in place to feed the growing baby. The regular cycles the mature female body goes through each month are controlled by hormones.

The main hormones that may help a woman feel desire are called estrogens and androgens. About half of the androgens in women are made in the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Estrogen comes mostly from the ovaries. The ovaries usually stop sending out eggs and greatly reduce their hormone output around age 50, women and sexuality after breast cancer, though the age varies. Still, it can take longer for the vagina to enlarge and get moist, women and sexuality after breast cancer.

Low estrogen levels can also cause the lining of the vagina to get thinner and lose some of its ability to stretch. In some women, the vagina may stay tight and dry, even if women and sexuality after breast cancer are very aroused. As a woman becomes sexually excited, her nervous system sends signals of pleasure to her brain. The signals may trigger the orgasm reflex. During orgasm, the muscles around the genitals contract in rhythm. The muscle tension and release sends waves of pleasure through m d anderson cancer center orlando genital area and sometimes over the entire body.

An orgasm is a natural reflex, but most women need some experience in learning to trigger it. As she gets older, orgasms may take longer to reach, and more mental excitement and touching may be needed.

There are many sources of excitement that lead to orgasm. They differ for each woman. A few women can reach orgasm just by having a vivid fantasy about sex or by having their breasts stroked. Others have had an orgasm during a dream while asleep. But most women need some caressing of their genitals to reach orgasm. When a woman becomes sexually excited, the entire genital area swells. It also turns a darker pink as blood rushes in under the skin.

Many women reach orgasm most easily when the clitoris is stroked. Like a penis, the clitoris has a head and a shaft. Soreness can be prevented by using a lubricant and by stroking or touching close to, but not on, the head of the clitoris, women and sexuality after breast cancer. Other areas, including the outer lips and anus, can also give a woman women and sexuality after breast cancer when stroked. The opening of the vagina contains many nerve endings.

For some women, the front wall of the vagina is more sensitive to pressure during sex than the back wall. Some sex therapists suggest that stroking an area about 1 to 4 inches deep on the front wall of the vagina helps some women reach orgasm during sex.

You may want to ask your doctor or nurse these questions about having sex during and after treatment: Women and sexuality after breast cancer are some things to keep in mind as you continue your sex life during or after cancer treatment. Learn as much as you can about the possible effects your cancer treatment may have on your sex life. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or any other member of your cancer care team.

When you know what to expect, you can plan how you might handle those issues. Keep in mind that, no matter what kind of cancer treatment you get, most women can women and sexuality after breast cancer feel pleasure from touching. Few cancer treatments other than those affecting some areas of the brain or spinal cord damage the nerves and muscles involved in feeling pleasure from touch and reaching orgasm. For example, a woman whose vagina is painfully tight or dry can often reach orgasm through stroking of her breasts and outer genitals, women and sexuality after breast cancer.

Try to keep an open mind about ways to feel sexual pleasure. Some couples have a narrow view of what normal sex is.

If both partners cannot reach orgasm through or during penetration, some may feel disappointed, women and sexuality after breast cancer. But during and after cancer treatment, there may be times when the kind of sex you like best is not possible.

Those times can be a chance to learn new ways to give and receive sexual pleasure. You and your partner can help each other reach orgasm through touching and stroking. At times, just cuddling can be pleasurable. You could also continue to enjoy touching yourself. Do not stop sexual pleasure just because your usual routine has been changed. Try to have clear, 2-way talks about sex with your partner and with your cancer care team.

Talk to your women and sexuality after breast cancer about sex, and tell your partner what you learn. Good communication is the key to adjusting your sexual routine when cancer changes your body. If you feel weak women and sexuality after breast cancer tired and want your partner to take a more active role in touching you, say so, women and sexuality after breast cancer. Keep in mind that if one partner has a sex women and sexuality after breast cancer, it affects both of you.

Remind yourself about your good qualities. If you lose your hair, you may choose to wear a wig, hat, or scarf if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Eating right and exercising can also help keep your body strong and your spirits up. Practice relaxation techniques, and get professional help if you think you are anxious, depressed, or struggling.

January 12, Last Revised: For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy. Cancer, Sex, and the Female Body. Cancer and sex When you first found out you had cancer, you were probably focused on treatment plans and survival.

Cancer of any of these organs or cancer treatment in this area can affect your sex life: Uterus the pear-shaped organ that holds a growing baby Fallopian tubes 2 thin tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus Ovaries 2 small organs that store eggs and make hormones Cervix the lower part of the uterus at the top of the vagina Vagina a 3- to 4-inch tube that connects the cervix to the outside of the body Vulva the outside parts, such as the clitoris and the inner and outer lips Bladder the hollow, balloon-like organ that holds urine Rectum the bottom end of the intestines that connects to the outside of the body.

Female genitals Many women have never looked at their genitals, and may not know for sure which parts are where. Take a few minutes with a hand mirror to exam yourself.

The outside part is called the vulva. Find the outer lips labia majora and inner lips labia minora. They act like pillows to protect the sensitive parts in the middle.

Many women find that gentle touch on the inner lips feels good. Next find the clitoris, a small bump covered by a little hood of skin. Just under the clitoris is a little slit where urine comes out.

Below the opening of the vagina is the anus, where stool come out. The anus is the very end of the system that digests food. Some women enjoy being touched around and even inside the anus.

If you or a partner puts a finger or a sex toy in the anus, women and sexuality after breast cancer, do not use it to caress the vagina, since that could cause an infection with bacteria that are healthy in the anus, but not in the vagina. If you feel comfortable, try touching each area lightly. Where are you most sensitive? The natural cycles of the mature female body In order to talk about sex, it helps to know about the structures and chinese anti fungal herbs that are also involved with having children and how they work together.

Hormones The main hormones that may help a woman feel desire are called estrogens and androgens. Female orgasm As a woman becomes sexually excited, her nervous system sends signals of pleasure to her brain.

 

Women and sexuality after breast cancer

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