Talking about intimacy after a breast cancer diagnosis

We know how daunting intimacy can be after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and we feel that there's not enough people talking openly about the ways any kind of intimacy (we don't just mean sex itself!) can be affected.

Our LoveRose Talks theme this week has been intimacy after a breast cancer diagnosis. We have teamed up with the lovely Isabel White, a psychosexual therapist and cancer care nurse, to discuss the issues we might face alone or in a relationship, and some practical solutions that we can take to feel more in control and confident about intimacy in our lives.

The notes below support the videos above. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have- we will do our best to get them answered or put you in touch with the right source of information! 

 

STRATEGIES TO TACKLE LOW SEXUAL DESIRE 
  • Date Nights: Regular couple time each week; minimise interruptions; focus on self & partner NOT wider family, friends, work issues
  • Shared responsibility for ensuring date nights happen (can help address desire differences between you & your partner)
  • Low demand & graduated sensual, erotic, sexual behaviours
  • Couple communication strategies: negotiation of acceptable or off limit behaviours & preferred sexual frequency
  • Sensate Focus: a strategy used commonly in sex therapy; Individualised and negotiated for you & your partner
  • Understand Mistakes, Arguments to enhance understanding between you & your partner

 STRATEGIES TO TACKLE BODY CONFIDENCE
  • You may be grieving the loss of the “pre-cancer” body: this takes time & support
  • Consider what you value about yourself & each other?
  • Re-establish a relationship with your current (perhaps changed) body in the “spirit of kindness / forgiveness”
  • What helped you feel body confident before? Clothes? Make-up? Touch? Partner / Friends feedback? Other?
  • How could you re-connect with that? Exercise? Dance? Mutual Touch? Playfulness? Sensual Activities (Solo & Together)? 
  • Self-care strategies: nutrition, complementary therapies, massage, relaxation, build emotional resilience, develop body presentation skills & strategies

 

 PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SEXUAL PAIN
  • Vaginal health strategies reduce / remove pain triggers: moisturisers, lubes, dilators, vibrators
  • Sexual Positions Advice: Woman on top position, greater control over penetration & movement; side-lying / spooning-male partner behind), use “Ohnut” device
  • Self graduated exposure to vaginal sensation, touch, insertion (fingers, partner fingers, tampon applicators, dilators, vibrators)
  • Kegel Exercises (Pelvic Floor) / Pelvic floor Physiotherapy if evidence of increased pelvic floor tone / vaginal entrance tension/ pain (increased awareness of tension / tone in “PC” muscle)
  • Sensate Focus: initial intercourse ban; helps feelings of arousal without fear of I/Course; gradually progress from non-penetrative behaviours to penetrative sex (if possible / desirable)

 

PRACTICAL VAGINAL HEALTH STRATEGIES FOR SEXUAL PAIN
  • Non-hormonal vaginal moisturisers-used x 2-3 / week irrespective of sexual activity

  • Intimate lubricants- on-demand before sexual activity: water, oil, silicone-based

 

In discussion with oncologist re safety:

  • Local (vaginal) oestrogen. 
  • Vaginal (vibrating) dilators
  • Vibrators: clitoral / vaginal [increase blood flow/ arousal]

Graduated Vibrators

Clitoral or Silicone Vibrators
  • Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises
  • Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy (Women’s Health Physiotherapists)
  • Fractional microablative CO2 laser-MonaLisa Touch

 

SOURCES OF SUPPORT/COUNSELLING