Experts say husbands can play a key role in boosting the confidence of their wives, who undergo cancer therapy.
The physical toll because of cancer therapy can make many female survivors turn their back on bedroom intimacy, and that's where a partner can play an important part in boosting the confidence of their other half, according to experts at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Thus, experts have offered advice for cancer survivors on how to get their relationships back on track.
"The majority of the women I see say that their partners are very understanding throughout their treatment. However, some women who have completed their treatment, have trouble with intimacy and say that they would like to be more interested in sex," said Mary K. Hughes, a clinical nurse specialist in M. D. Anderson's Psychiatry Department.
She added: "Remember that regaining a powerful sexual relationship with your partner isn't a race. It's like a train ride, it's a journey. Be creative, and do what feels natural. And who knows? The sex might end-up being better than ever."
In her opinion, any couple's ability to maintain a healthy relationship relies, in part, on their ability to interact, relate and be intimate as they make challenging and life-affirming transitions throughout life.
And when it comes to being the partner of a cancer patient, that means being an active part of their companion's treatment.
Hughes said: "It is helpful if the partner can be there, go with the woman to her appointments and offer to drive her to chemotherapy. Being there is a crucial part of support. A woman is much more likely to feel confident and have a renewed interest in sex if she feels safe and supported."
"It's important for partners to continue reassuring and complimenting her because a woman initially might have a hard time believing that her partner finds her attractive," said Dr. Leslie R. Schover, a licensed clinical psychologist.
After going under cancer treatment, a woman may develop a negative body image as a result of surgeries, or because of scarring.
Schover said: "What the woman needs to remember is that she is usually more upset about the changes to her body than her partner is."
Hughes said: "I have talked to a lot of partners, and the truth is that they are just happy that the woman they love is alive. They are not concerned about a scar or an imperfect breast. A woman shouldn't think that her partner isn't comfortable with her new body."
Some women who have undergone chemotherapy experience sexual issues that are physiological, as well as loss of libido.
Schover said: "Without understanding how to avoid pain, many women lose interest in sex because it is traumatic and painful."
Hughes said: "Partners shouldn't be afraid to approach the woman sexually or express their desire."
She added: "Women who are having trouble with their level of desire need to look at making love like sitting down to a lovely meal without being particularly hungry," Hughes said. "If you start to eat and really focus on enjoying it, it becomes a wonderful meal."
Experts even gave tips on intimacy for survivors:
1. Build self esteem by doing things that are good for your body, like eating healthy food, drinking plenty of water, exercising and making an effort to look your best
2. Wear a tank top or a camisole when making love if it makes you feel more sexual, or invest in sexy lingerie that hides the part of the body that causes insecurity
3. Engage in activities that will bring you closer together physically and that can generate desire, like holding hands, kissing or cuddling
4. Schedule sexual encounters at times that you have more energy and make a commitment to your "special time"
5. Try making love in different positions that might make you feel more comfortable about your body
6. Invest in a water-based lubricant and an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer in the case of dryness. Incorporate the lubricant into your sexual routine, and use the moisturizer a few times a week independently of intimate activity.
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