- Question from Website Question: I am a public health professional specializing in minority health. Are there data or research on how the issue of sexuality after breast cancer specifically affects non-white women? What has been your experience in helping non-white women navigate this situation?
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
Sexuality can vary tremendously from one culture to another. One culture may be very open with nudity, sexual practices, experimentation, and talking openly about all these things, like in Scandinavia. Other cultures, such as in the African American culture, have historically had barriers against oral sex. These barriers have changed over the years, but there may be some residual resistance against experimenting in that way.
There's only one of each one of you, no matter what culture, part of the world, age group, menopausal status, or disease stage that you come from. Sometimes, it's important to pull up a chair and have a conversation with yourself and find out what you feel comfortable with, or your clients feel comfortable with, as they rediscover their intimate life. What would they like to see happen? Do they want a partner? If they have a partner, what do they hope to share with this partner? I find when I lead a conversation that way that it's relatively easy to figure out the interest and wants of the unique person in front of me. This helps guide the conversation that follows.
- Su Kenderdine I have no scientific basis except through individual patients and fictional literature, but, boy, I think it's a lot harder for African American women. I think they're traditionally treated as sex objects and objectified, and they are culturally more easily made to feel second-hand goods when they're less than perfect. It's a tougher struggle and they also, on the whole, are more uncomfortable talking about sex. It's a touchy issue that needs one-on-one help.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. There are other cultures, like the Japanese culture, that have centuries-old traditions of eroticism. This may result in more play and more enactment of fantasy, but it may not have an impact on the cultural acceptance of talking openly about it. Every culture has its own good things as well as not so great things. As each of us moves forward in our lives, we can pick the best parts of the different cultures around the world that feel comfortable and exciting, and that might be one way that you can start to imagine and think about what you want your sex life to become over time.
- Su Kenderdine Thank you all for being here. I pray that we helped a little and I'm honored that you came and talked with us. I just want to say that, as a breast cancer survivor myself, there's good that comes out of this, not just bad. Keep up the struggle. God bless!
On Wednesday, May 19, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Sleep or Sex? You Can Have Both! Su Carroll Kenderdine, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to maintain sexual intimacy during and after treatment, what to do for loss of libido and vaginal dryness, ways to reduce the fatigue related to breast cancer, and more.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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