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Managing Physical Issues

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Sex, which can include penetrative or nonpenetrative sexual activity, is designed to feel pleasurable. Many women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer say that sex is an important part of their lives and of their relationships with their spouse or partner. Sometimes, however, pain because of metastases or side effects from treatment can make sex feel anything but enjoyable. When this happens, instead of associating sex with pleasure, it may start to feel more like something you’d rather avoid.

On the other hand, some women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have said that they sometimes “put up with” painful sex anyway, even when they have no sex drive, because they’re concerned about their partners being satisfied. And it may feel like something you want to do despite any discomfort if your partner has been very supportive of you through diagnosis and treatment. Even so, if you’re dealing with physical problems that are affecting your sex life, keep these things in mind:

  • You have a right to not feel like having sex. If you do not feel like having sex, try to remember that it happens to all women, and often as a result of some treatments for metastatic breast cancer. You are not obligated to have sex.
  • There are many other fulfilling ways besides sex to express intimacy. An important part of staying connected is basic touch: hugging, holding hands, or gentle back rubs.

In this section, we’ll talk about things that can help ease some of the physical sexuality challenges that often come up for women living with metastatic breast cancer.

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