September & October are Awareness months dedicated to most of the Female cancers (Gynecological & Breast Cancers). We would like to bring to your attention one of the less-mentioned aspects of the disease and treatment.
It is well known that sexually related problems are common in women after cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, most women are commonly not asked about these distressing symptoms by their oncologists.
Sexual dysfunction is known to be a prevalent and distressing problem after cancer treatments. Symptoms are reported in more than half of patients with breast cancer, gynaecologic cancers, and colorectal cancer. Sexual function is known to be impacted by biologic, psychologic, and social factors—and a cancer diagnosis and its treatment can affect patients in all those areas.
Chemotherapy, surgery to remove ovaries, and pelvic radiation all can cause premature menopause. As a result of that, women can experience many different genitourinary localized and systemic symptoms of menopause.
For women with breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy can result in loss of nipple and breast sensation. Gynaecologic cancer surgery can result in loss of clitoral sensation or scarring of vulvar or vaginal tissue. Pelvic radiation commonly can result in vaginal stenosis—narrowing and shortening of the vagina.
What should you do?
Many oncologists may think that if a sexual concern is important to the patient, they will raise the issue however, most patients will usually not ask for help with it.
Oncologists could also address those concerns by recommending the appropriate use of vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, and vaginal estrogen. Working with a sex therapist and pelvic floor therapist should be considered.
In addition, better communication and open discussion between treating oncologists and their patients, about sexual dysfunction symptoms, should be encouraged.
If you have any sexual concerns, you are most welcome to ask them, anonymously, in the Sexuality & Cancer group on our Cancer App.
This content is provided for your general education and information only. It does not necessarily reflect Belong’s views and opinions. Belong does not endorse or support any specific product, service, or treatment.