Impact of breast cancer on sexuality and intimacy

Treatment for breast cancer can affect a woman's relationship with her partner, including their sexual relationship. Different treatments can affect how a woman feels about herself and her attractiveness. This can happen to any woman, whether or not she has a partner.

Some of the sexual difficulties that may arise as a result of treatment include:

  • feeling less attractive because of treatment
  • breast tenderness after treatment
  • lower libido because of feeling unwell, tired or worried
  • vaginal dryness due to the impact of different drugs.

Managing these symptoms may require some effort – and open communication between a woman and her partner.

What can help with sexual difficulties caused by breast cancer?

Even if it's difficult, try to talk with your partner about how you are feeling and share your fears and concerns. Ways can be found to adapt to your situation and help you feel closer to each other.

  • You and your partner may find it helpful to talk to a health professional about your concerns – you can do this together or separately. You may want to ask for advice from a trained specialist such as a relationship counsellor or sex therapist.
  • There are some practical things that can help overcome some of the physical changes due to treatment. Water-based lubricants, vaginal moisturisers and creams can help with vaginal dryness. Talk to someone you feel comfortable with in your healthcare team to find out more.

Same sex couples and breast cancer

Women in same sex relationships may feel that a lot of attention is placed on heterosexual couples and that lesbian sexuality is not mentioned when the impact of breast cancer on sexuality is discussed.

Talking with someone you feel comfortable with in your healthcare team may help you and your partner feel more supported.