Sex & intimacy

4 Min. Read

Black man and woman cuddling on couchOlder white, heterosexual couple, looks at each other lovingly

Impact of breast cancer on your sex life

Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can affect both sexuality and intimacy. You may feel a change in your sexual relationships, sexual health, sexual response and function, level of sexual desire and satisfaction, as well as intimacy.

It’s normal to lose interest in sex at times after a breast cancer diagnosis and during treatment. You may feel differently in your own body and how you feel about being touched or touching others, kissing, masturbating, having intercourse or penetration, and being physically or emotionally close with your partner, spouse or someone you are dating.

Healthcare providers might not talk about these changes, but such effects are common. Many people experience them, regardless of age, stage of diagnosis or whether they are in a relationship or not.

What’s going on?

Many factors related to breast cancer can lessen sexual desire and change your enjoyment of sex. These include fatigue, menopausal symptoms, pain and breast cancer treatment itself. You also may have anxiety, fear, depression, weight gain, grief over the loss of your breast or breasts, negative feelings about changes in your body, or worry about treatment, recurrence and your own mortality.

Your age, social and cultural background, religious beliefs or past sexual history might affect your comfort level in reading about sex or talking about sexual effects with your healthcare providers.

This section can help you learn about the impact of breast cancer on body image and understand more about the sexual side effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.


Video: Sexuality & intimacy after a breast cancer diagnosis (excerpt)

Dr. Sage Bolte discusses the effects of diagnosis and treatment on the sexual self.

Click here to watch the full video.