40 – 100% of cancer patients struggle with some type of sexual dysfunction. For breast cancer survivors, the diagnosis of breast cancer encompasses not only physical, but also social and psychological concerns due to the importance of the breasts with respect to body image, sexuality and motherhood.
Treatments that cancer patients undergo can have a large impact on sexual function: chemotherapy, surgery, hormonal manipulation, and radiation therapy can all impact a patient’s sexual health. Drugs that are prescribed to patients with cancer can also negatively impact sexual function.
When a patient’s sexual functioning is compromised as a result of cancer treatment, so is her quality of life.
Survivors of cancer often don’t feel comfortable bringing up sexual functioning concerns to their oncologist – this is why it is so important for providers to talk with their patients about their sexual health and why ASCO – a national organization of oncologists and other cancer care providers – published guidelines that state “for all people diagnosed with cancer, a member of the patient’s healthcare team should initiate a discussion on sexual health and any sexual problems caused by the cancer or its treatment.”
Although women can experience many issues related to sexual functioning, including emotional distress, difficulty with orgasm, and arousal disorder, the two most common concerns are low desire and painful sex (dyspareunia).
During this episode, our patient Katherine M. tells her story – from her diagnosis of breast cancer at age 28, to the impact it had on her both physically and emotionally, to the impact it had on her sexual health, and what her life is like now.