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Managing Emotional Issues

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Humans are sexual beings. Whether with a spouse, a partner, or yourself, sex can be life-affirming, fun, a stress-reliever, and a way to express love.

When you have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, though, sex might be the farthest thing from your mind. Sometimes sex becomes lower on the priority list because of:

  • discomfort due to vaginal dryness, tightness, or bone pain
  • fatigue
  • different feelings about your body after surgery
  • depression or anxiety; according to a survey of 599 women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, these feelings are common:
    • 71% said metastatic breast cancer negatively impacted their sexual life, and 50% said sexual activity caused them distress.
    • 71% felt anxious about having sex, and 64% did not enjoy sex.
    • More than half (59%) felt they could talk about their sexual concerns with someone in their healthcare team, but just 20% reported that a member of their healthcare team ever asked them about sexuality.
    • Only 17% sought treatment for sexual dysfunction, and 39% said they would never go to a mental health expert for sexual counseling even if it was free.

If sex hurts or if you are too tired, be kind to yourself. It makes sense that you may not want to have sex. But if sex is something you’re missing, you are also not alone. A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis does not change the fact that you’re still a sexual being. Studies show loving, intimate relationships, including sexual contact, remain important for people living with a diagnosis such as metastatic breast cancer. Sexuality is a central component of your total care, and there are ways to deal with some of the obstacles.

In this section, learn about how to address some of the emotional issues that sex can bring up:

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