Improving Sexual Health With Self Care

Updated 
August 31, 2015

Your sexual health and satisfaction are linked to your overall health. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause side effects that affect your body.

There are many self-care measures you can try to improve your overall health and restore your physical, emotional and sexual well-being.

Taking Emotional Care of Yourself

We often put others’ needs before our own. It’s beneficial to put your needs first, sometimes by asking for practical help or emotional support.

Eating Well

Plan meals, snacks and food shopping so you have a well-balanced diet most of the time.

  • To learn how to meet your nutritioninfo-icon needs and manage your weight, talk with a nutritionistinfo-icon or dietitianinfo-icon.
  • Cooking and eating healthy foods with a friend or partner can be encouraging and enjoyable.

Exercise

Staying active helps you restore your self-confidence, boost your energy, improve body imageinfo-icon and lift your mood. The best exercise for you is the one you’ll do regularly and enjoy.

  • Brisk walking, running, swimming, bicycling, yogainfo-icon and dance are good options.
  • Exercising with a friend can help you maintain your physical activity routine and also increase your fun while doing it.
  • Before you start or resume an exercise program, check with your care team.

    Staying active helps you restore your self-confidence, boost your energy, improve body image and lift your mood. The best exercise for you is the one you’ll do regularly and enjoy.

  • Brisk walking, running, swimming, bicycling, yoga and dance are good options.
  • Exercising with a friend can help you maintain your physical activity routine and also increase your fun while doing it.
  • Before you start or resume an exercise program, check with your care team.

Stress Reduction

Doing things that give you pleasure can renew your self-esteem, help ease stressinfo-icon and improve your mood.

  • Get enough sleep.
    • Keep to regular bedtime and wake-up hours.
    • Adjust your bedroom environment for quiet and calm.
  • Plan time to enjoy yourself.
  • Create a list of what makes you feel good, such as a manicure, relaxing in a bubble bath or working in the garden.
    • When you need to relieve stress, choose a feel-good activity from your list.
  • Studies show that massage helps with anxietyinfo-icon, fatigueinfo-icon and pain. Look for a licensed massage therapist who has experience with people affected by breast cancer.
    • To find a qualified massage therapist in your area, visit the American Massage Therapyinfo-icon Association at amtamassage.org.

Avoiding Alcohol and Drugs

While alcohol can relax you and may enhance sexual pleasure, studies show a link between alcohol and breast cancer recurrenceinfo-icon. If you drink, limit your intake.

  • Smoking, drinking too much alcohol and taking recreational drugs can harm your general health. They also can affect your sexual arousal and response.

Rebuilding Your Self-Image

Physical changes to your breasts and body from breast cancer treatment may affect how you think about your overall self – your body imageinfo-icon. Changes in your body image may negatively impact your emotions, self-confidence, sense of yourself as a sexual being and your relationships.

It can be hard to adjust to looking or feeling different than you did before. Scars, weight change and even temporary hair loss may cause you to worry about your appearance. Your sexual functioning and responsiveness may be altered by treatment side effects.

Breast loss, whether partial or complete, causes changes. Breast reconstructioninfo-icon may restore the shape and size of your breast, but can’t restore normal feeling in the breast. Yet, reconstruction may help your sexual enjoyment because it could boost your feelings of attractiveness.

To strengthen your self-image:

  • Give yourself time to adjust. Learning to accept a breast cancer diagnosisinfo-icon and treatment takes time. So does adjusting to a new way of feeling about yourself or how you look.
    • Appreciate and respect that your body has gone through difficult treatments.
    • Looking at yourself in the mirror may help you feel more comfortable over time. Try to be kind to yourself and accepting of your new body.
  • Stay calm and, if you can, embrace humor. Laughter has many positive effects on the mind and body, and it may help you relax.
  • Take small steps. Do little things along the way to your bigger goal of feeling better about yourself.
    • Shower and dress to feel good every day, even when you’re not in the mood.
    • Take a walk, or get other exercise you enjoy.
  • Buy lingerie. After breast cancer surgeryinfo-icon, it’s common to feel self-conscious about being nude during sexual activity. Wearing camisoles, lingerie or nightgowns might make you feel sexy and boost your confidence. Or, you might prefer to cover yourself with a T-shirt or flannel PJs—that’s OK, too.
    • If you have trouble finding what you need in a department store, try Amoena, at amoena.com/us. This website has clothing designed for women treated for breast cancer, including undergarments, swimwear, symmetry shapers and breast forms.

Sharing

Talking with your partner about your concerns and about what feels good sexually can help you move forward. Read more about talking with your partner here.

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Article August 31, 2015
Article August 31, 2015