psychological aspect, breast cancer treatment can also affect other aspects of
sexual functioning. It could result in a decrease in sexual drive, painful
intercourse, decreased lubrication and lack of satisfaction
. This aspect is often
ignored during management of a patient with breast cancer. Doctors often tend
to concentrate on the removal of the cancer and fail to pay attention to this
aspect of care.
A study was
conducted in Moroccan female breast cancer survivors to examine the impact of
diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer on their sexual lives
. 120 sexually -active women
diagnosed with breast cancer were included in the study. They had undergone
prior treatment for breast cancer, including surgery and some adjuvant
treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
The women were
interviewed and assessed based on two scales: the first scale was the Body
It assessed changes in body image perception, with questions regarding impact
of treatment on self-consciousness, physical and sexual attractiveness,
femininity, satisfaction with body and scars, body integrity, and avoidance behavior.
The second scale was called the Female
Sexual Function Index.
It evaluated desire, arousal, lubrification, orgasm,
satisfaction and pain during sexual intercourse.
found that half the patients experienced problems related to body image
These were often associated with surgical removal of the breast, hair loss,
fatigue, weakness and changes in hormonal status from chemotherapy, concern regarding
weight gain or loss, poorer mental health, and lower self-esteem.
The study also
found that none of the patients had discussed the sexual aspect of their cancer
treatment with their doctors
. 84% women continued to be sexually active
following treatment. However, 65% women experienced painful intercourse. Lubrication
difficulties and decreased sexual drive were reported by about half the women. About
one third of women complained of inhibited female orgasm, lack of satisfaction
and brevity of intercourse and arousal.
Sexual dysfunction was absent before treatment in
most patients. However, all the patients complained of worsening of symptoms
following treatment, especially after chemotherapy. All the patients reported
that they were not explained this aspect prior to treatment.
study does have some limitations in the methodology, it demonstrates that
discussion regarding sexual activity is an important aspect during management
of breast cancer and should not be ignored
. The psychological aspects such as decrease
in sexual desire, difficulty to reach orgasm and brevity of intercourse, as
well as the physical aspects such as painful intercourse and lubrication
difficulties should be addressed.
The study thus
highlights the importance of discussing and managing sexual issues during the
treatment of breast cancer in women.
1. Sbitti Y, Kadiri H, Essaidi I, Fadoukhair Z, Kharmoun S, Slimani K, et
al. Breast cancer treatment and sexual dysfunction: Moroccan women's perception.
BMC Women's Health 2011, 11:29