Sexuality and intimacy after breast cancer surgery

Having breast cancer and treatment, including surgery, may affect your sexuality.

Some women find it may be a while before they feel like resuming sexual activity after treatment for cancer – you may need to recover from the operation and get used to wearing a prosthesis or having a reconstruction.

Things that lift your overall wellbeing, like good food, exercise and relaxation, will help to boost your sexual confidence.

If you have a partner, you may be concerned about their reaction to the prosthesis or reconstruction. You may feel nervous or uncomfortable about your partner seeing you naked or you may worry that they’ll find you unattractive. You may want to talk to your partner about the changes while you’re in the hospital rather than the more intimate environment of your home.

It will take time to get used to how your body has changed. Some women may miss the pleasure they felt from the breast or nipple being stroked or kissed during sex. This may be the case even if you have a reconstruction. If breast stimulation was important to arousal before surgery, you may need to explore other ways of becoming aroused.

Some women try to avoid sexual contact, but this may not be satisfying for you and your partner. Although it may be difficult, discuss your fears and needs together. How you choose to approach intimacy depends on what suits you both. Click here for tips on managing changes to sexuality.

     — Kerry

What if I don’t have a partner?

If you don’t have a partner, you might be concerned about forming new relationships. If you do meet someone new, you might worry about when and how to tell them that you’re wearing a breast form or have a reconstructed breast.

You may want to share the information with a new partner when you feel it could develop into a relationship. Practising what to say first may help.

If a new relationship doesn’t work out, don’t automatically blame the cancer or how your body has changed. Relationships can end for a variety of reasons.

This information was last reviewed in June 2017
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