Breast cancer

23 September 2010

Sexual issues after breast cancer

A new study showed that 70% of women were facing sexual function problems approximately two years post breast cancer diagnosis.


A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looked at whether women were more likely to experience sexual problems after breast cancer. The results showed that 70% of women were facing sexual function problems approximately two years post diagnosis.

Mary Panjari, PhD, of the Women's Health Program at Monash University, reported on the sexual well-being nearly two years after diagnosis and initial treatment of participants in the BUPA Foundation Health and Wellbeing after Breast Cancer Study which involves approximately 1,700 breast cancer survivors.

Over 80% of all the women in the study described their sex life before breast cancer as good and satisfying. Amongst the partnered women aged 70 years or younger, with no active disease, 70% were experiencing sexual function problems.

Many of the women who experienced sexual problems had concerns about their body image after breast cancer. Also, specific treatments for breast cancer were more likely to be associated with menopausal symptoms, which can contribute to sexual problems.

Vasomotor symptoms are menopausal

Vasomotor symptoms are menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. Adjuvant endocrine therapy describes the treatment of hormone receptor positive breast cancer with additional hormone drugs, after surgery and radiotherapy, in order to help stop the disease from coming back.

Adjuvant endocrine therapies, in particular aromatase inhibitors, can exacerbate these menopausal symptoms and affect sexual function. In women who were not on endocrine therapy, there was no association between sexual dysfunction and vasomotor symptoms.

"Women who have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer still require support to maintain health and well-being after breast cancer," Panjari concludes.

"As women now remain on aromatase inhibitors for longer periods, sexual function problems are likely to become more common amongst breast cancer survivors." (EurekAlert!/September 2010)

Read more:
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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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