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Hereditary Cancer Info > Nutrition & Lifestyle > Body Image & Intimacy

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Body Image & Intimacy

Learn about the effects of diet, lifestyle, and surgical menopause on cancer risk and quality-of-life for people with HBOC.

Body Image & Intimacy

Many aspects of cancer treatment or preventive care can impact how we view ourselves, our desire, and our ability to engage in intimate relationships. Mastectomy with or without reconstruction may change our body shape, sensation of being touched, and our self-image. Similarly, some treatments for cancer may cause hair loss, fatigue, nauseau, and may also cause menopause, or menopause-like symptoms. Treatment-induced menopause, whether from chemotherapy, hormonal treatment, or oophorectomy can have a significant impact on sexuality and intimacy. This kind of abrupt menopause often affects arousal, desire, and the ability to achieve orgasm. Vaginal dryness can be a common and frustrating side effect that can affect intercourse. 

On top of these physical effects, emotional issues associated with hereditary cancer can put additional stress on relationships. Even with these challenges, many couples make it through the hereditary cancer journey closer than they were before. Facing these issues may require some research and effort. 

Issues of intimacy and sexuality are gaining more attention from the medical community and more research is being done to better address them. It is important to discuss your concerns with your health care team. Fortunately there are some excellent strategies and products available to help manage side effects.  Sometimes medications can be changed or adjusted to improve libido. Health care providers trained in couples counseling, intimacy or sexuality may help you and your partner work through some of these challenges. Some cancer centers now have departments and specialists that focus on long-term quality-of-life issues including intimacy and sexual health. 


Updated 12/27/2016

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