Cancer is tough. Once you are a survivor, it is a moment to celebrate. However, the after effects also can be detrimental to your health. The National Institutes of Health reports that 40% of women experience intimacy concerns, and that percentage is even higher, at least 80-90%, among cancer survivors.
Having a healthy sexuality improves your overall mental and physical health, happiness and life span, said Dr. Hajira Yasmin, medical director of Women’s Intimacy Clinic at Marshfield Clinic Health System.
Aftermath of cancer
After surviving cancer, many women have physical changes to their body because of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Whatever physical changes you experienced, these changes may have an effect on your emotional or physical intimacy with your partner.
With correct interventions, your body can be restored to a new normal that keeps you emotionally and physically connected to your partner. Treatments provided at the Women’s Intimacy Clinic may include medications, lubricants, physical therapy, vaginal trainer therapy and much more based on individual situation.
We want to help you prevent sexual pain,” Yasmin said, who works with Health System oncologists to provide a safe, scientific and effective treatment.
More than physical changes
If intimacy concerns are because of emotional, relational and social factors, Women’s Intimacy Clinic has a sex therapist who talks with you about your situational stressors, body image, self-esteem and sexual confidence concerns. These concerns can happen after major surgeries like mastectomy or hysterectomy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
We are here to help you understand the new functional perspective of your body, and to not feel shame or guilt about it,” Yasmin said. “It’s important to feel good in your mind and body before you engage in intimate sexual experiences.”
Yasmin also provides you researched proven options for alternate ways to be intimate and connect with your partner.
Communicate with your partner
During and after cancer treatment, you may notice your sexual intimacy needs change. You may have low desire for sex, or you may have areas that are painful while being intimate.
Yasmin encourages you communicate with your partner about those changes. Let them know, “I don’t like this, but I do like this.”
Women’s Intimacy Clinic helps you start the conversation with your partner and feel comfortable. During an appointment, Yasmin recommends patients bring their partners, so she can explain the concern and open up the conversation to questions.
“If you can communicate your basic intimacy need to your partner, you will see improved communication with many other routine things like finance, raising children or buying a house,” she said.
Yasmin compares communicating about intimacy concerns the same way you would talk about aches and pains in your body. If you have leg pain and can’t continue running, you would let your partner know. The same goes for sexual pain or sexual desire changes.
Be happy with your new normal
As a physician, Yasmin said it is so important to help patients understand that there is a physical change in their bodies with cancer treatment and you can adapt to this change with help and guidance. You can still be emotionally and physically connected with your partner, it is just in a new way.
“It is OK to adapt to this change,” she said. “It’s your new normal.”
Yasmin said it’s important to not feel alone in your cancer survivorship journey. Women’s Intimacy Clinic is here to help you reclaim your sexual life after cancer.
Visit Women’s Intimacy Clinic to find more information or to request a consult to talk about your concerns.