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Sexo, Fertilidad y Cáncer de Mama

Between surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, sex can be the last thing you think about. You may even be wondering if you will ever feel pleasure again.

It’s a big problem because studies have shown that between 60% and 70% of women with breast cancer have treatment-related sexual problems. The cause can be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies. Unlike nausea, hair loss, fatigue, and other side effects of cancer treatment, sexual problems may not go away when treatment ends.

You may experience vaginal dryness from lack of estrogen, deal with body image issues after a lumpectomy or mastectomy, experience hot flashes (and, consequently, insomnia) as part of early menopause, or just feel too exhausted to even think about sex.

Unfortunately, many breast cancer survivors with sexual health problems suffer in silence and their problems go untreated. This can have profound effects on the quality of life.

Sex is not just about having sex. It’s also about intimacy and closeness, touching, hugging, kissing, caressing and massaging. These are all important components of a healthy relationship and something you probably need now more than ever. After all, intimacy may or may not lead to sex. It is important to be honest with your partner about where you are on the tour and that you are both ready to ride together.

It is also important to speak to your healthcare provider (HCP). Don’t wait for sexual health problems to come your way. As difficult as it may be, you should bring the subject up to make sure you know what treatments are available. There are a number of therapies available including sex therapy, pelvic floor physiotherapy, dilators, moisturizers and lubricants, prescription therapies, and laser therapy.

If you find that your GP is not adequately addressing your concerns, ask for a referral. If body image is a factor in your problem, a good therapist can help you feel more accepted by your body and talk about anything related to desire and intimacy. Help is available and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

Fertility after breast cancer

Although most postmenopausal women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, between 6% and 10% of women will be diagnosed by ages 44 or younger, and many of them still want to have children. However, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can affect fertility and even cause women to go through early menopause.

Fortunately, there are a number of options available to protect or maintain fertility. These include freezing your eggs before starting treatment, using medication to protect your ovaries (although the evidence is mixed), and in vitro fertilization and freezing the resulting embryos before starting your cancer treatment.

Since your surgeon or oncologist is focused on treating your cancer, future fertility may not be what they want to discuss with you. It is important that you bring up the topic and voice your concerns. Your GP should be able to refer you to a specialist who can explain your options and help you with this difficult decision.

This resource was created with the assistance of Merck, Daiichi Sankyo, and Sanofi Genzyme.

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