Health Watch -- Life After Cancer (Part 1)

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Surviving breast cancer may not be the end of the struggle.

What happens after you've survived breast cancer?

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say one area where breast cancer survivors may struggle is in their sex lives. Studies have shown that up to a third of patients feel that their disease and treatment have had a negative impact on their sexuality. The problems can be emotional or physical.

Dr. Susan Hoover, a UT Southwestern cancer surgeon, says some of the problems stem from self-image. A woman's breasts are associated with fertility and the sexual experience, so diseases of the breast can affect the way a woman sees herself sexually. There may also be physical problems with pain or lack of sensation that affect the sexual experience.

Dr. Hoover suggests that breast cancer survivors take their time and work gradually to resume intimacy, making adjustments as needed along the way. Patients may need to readjust their self-image or alter their sexual routines to accommodate changes. Both partners may need to adjust to changing needs and desires - physically, mentally and emotionally.

Counseling and support groups may help survivors and their partners learn to adjust to the changes brought about by breast cancer.

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Oct. 2004

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