Ask Dr. Martee Hensley
Q: My fiancée, age 46, has had breast cancer and a mastectomy. This was two years ago. She has had no recurrence. Is there any restriction on sexual activity after breast cancer treatment?A: If your concern is that frequent sexual activity may increase the risk of recurrence of the breast cancer, then you and your fiancée can be reassured that that is not the case. Frequent sexual activity does not cause breast cancer, and it will not increase the risk of recurrence. Women who are in the midst of being treated for breast cancer are not restricted from having sex, and breast cancer survivors are generally encouraged to try to resume their normal sexual activities.
— Brian, Washington
Some breast cancer survivors, however, find that resuming sexual activity is a challenging task. There are many potential reasons for this. A woman may have less confidence in her physical appearance after cancer surgery. Many breast cancer survivors enter premature menopause because of the side effects of chemotherapy; this can lessen libido and cause vaginal dryness. If vaginal dryness makes intercourse painful, it can set up a vicious cycle in which women fear sexual activity, which lowers libido even further.
You should try to be sensitive to your fiancée's physical and emotional concerns. If she has particular questions about sexual activity, she should discuss these with her doctor. Some cancer centers have specialists who help cancer survivors optimize their sexual health after cancer treatments.