For young women diagnosed with breast cancer, the emotional and physical toll can be overwhelming. Even after successful treatment, challenges may persist—particularly when you're dealing with hormone therapies like estrogen suppression. These treatments, while lifesaving, can have a significant impact on your sexual health, causing vaginal dryness, atrophy, and pain during sex. But your active sex drive doesn't have to be another casualty of breast cancer. Here are some ways to navigate these challenges.
Vaginal Dryness and Atrophy
Estrogen suppression can result in vaginal dryness and atrophy, making sex uncomfortable or painful. A range of products is available to address this issue:
- Moisturizers: Vaginal moisturizers like Replens can be used regularly to maintain vaginal health.
- Hormone Therapy: Discuss options like localized estrogen therapy with your healthcare provider. These therapies can sometimes be used in conjunction with anti-cancer hormone treatments.
Pain with Sex
If you experience pain during sex (dyspareunia), you're not alone. Products and techniques can make a significant difference:
- Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: Working with a specialized therapist can teach you exercises to relax and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Dilators: Products like Soul Source Dilators can help you become accustomed to penetration again.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is crucial. Be open with your partner about what feels good and what doesn't. You may need to explore new ways of achieving sexual pleasure.
- Books: Resources like "Woman Cancer Sex" by Anne Katz offer valuable insights.
- Online Forums: Websites such as Young Survival Coalition have discussion boards where young survivors share experiences and solutions.
The Role of Healthcare Providers
Consult your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and customized advice tailored to your needs. You may need to adjust your hormone therapies or explore other medications that might alleviate your symptoms.
Cancer should not steal your pleasure or intimate connection. While estrogen suppression poses its challenges, with the right products and a proactive approach, you can continue to enjoy a fulfilling intimate life. You’re more than a survivor; you’re a warrior, and warriors don’t back down from challenges—even in the bedroom.
Surviving breast cancer as a young woman is an empowering but complex journey. With a proactive approach and the right resources, you can navigate the challenges estrogen suppression brings to your sex life. Your active sex drive is very much a part of you, and you have the right and the means to express it fully.