Breast cancer, chemotherapy, and sexuality

By | July 25, 2014

A question that comes up on various breast cancer online communities relates to sex and breast cancer – and more specifically sex and chemotherapy.

I have been fortunate, in that several years ago, both my husband and I were trained as Adult Our Whole Lives (OWL) Sexuality educators. I have also been trained to lead the Senior High program. Both these programs are about learning about and learning how to talk about sexuality. They teach age appropriate ways in which to discuss and discover our bodies.

So, when asked about sexuality and chemotherapy, I was not afraid to offer up some advice. First off, check with your oncologist about your specific regime, as the body excretes chemo differently, and you do not want to put your partner at risk.  There are times during chemo when it is not advised to have intercourse (but you can still cuddle and play).

My first bit of advice, is to remember your teenage/20s and learn to play again – If you have the chance to play before chemo, try out different types of condoms. If you find regular condoms uncomfortable, try the latex free ones. Some people (either gender) can find that they are sensitive to latex making it very uncomfortable. There are non-latex options available. Also experiment with lots of lubricant. There are many types available, some work better than others – you may react to some and not others. If a male partner is not liking the feel of the condom, try adding a drop or two of additional lube inside the condom. I’m told that helps with sensitivity. For women, use lots, with some help apply internally. If that doesn’t help, talk to your oncologist about vaginal dryness (this is a issue with chemo as well as anti-homone therapies) – there are medications/creams/etc available to help.

Typically, when you teach about sexuality you avoid personal sharing. The only personal sharing I will say is that we are having fun – we are remembering our younger years – and we are exploring my new body – rubbing shaved heads it kinds fun = although I’m not sure how much longer mine will have hair! Loss of hair is an exciting way to experience new sensations – so not everything about cancer needs to suck!

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