How breast cancer changes self-esteem and sex life

Evidence suggests cancer has long-term consequences for a woman's sex life.Photo / Thinkstock
Evidence suggests cancer has long-term consequences for a woman's sex life.Photo / Thinkstock

One in two breast cancer survivors under the age of 55 say their sex lives have suffered as a result the disease and its treatment, a survey by Macmillan Cancer Support has found.

Nearly one in three women who had beaten breast cancer, and 54 per cent of those under 55, say they have sex less often.

The charity said it was particularly concerned by evidence that a cancer had long-term consequences for a woman's sex life. Almost a third of women diagnosed ten years ago or more said they have sex less often because of their cancer.

Most women who had had cancer said they had a lower sex drive, nearly half said they felt more body conscious and one in six said that sex had become physically too painful following chemotherapy or surgery.

"Many breast cancer survivors find their sex lives can fall apart," said Dr Daria Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Macmillan. "As well as dealing with pain, they may find scarring from surgery or radiotherapy has affected their body confidence or treatment has dampened their libido."

"The impact of a waning sex life can be tough, chipping away at a patient's self-esteem - and in more extreme cases leading to depression or contributing to a relationship breakdown."

Macmillan surveyed 532 women who have had surgery for breast cancer. The charity is encouraging breast cancer patients who need support relating to cancer's effect on their self-esteem and sex life to get help from their GP.

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