Q. I have been treated for breast cancer and I just don't feel like being intimate. Is this due to my treatments or did I just change as a person? My partner is concerned and wants to know if we will ever be intimate again?

A.

For many women, treatment for breast cancer has a side effect of reducing their desire for physical intimacy. This occurs when your treatment has affected the amount of estrogen your body produces. There are ways for you to address your partner’s wish for physical intimacy. But one of the issues between the two of you may have something to do with communication. Openly discussing sex may not be typical even for couples who have been together for a long time. Reminiscing about the funny and tender things you have shared together, and your history of how you met and became a couple, can be a comfortable way to begin. Your sexual relationship is a part of being a couple, but there are many other parts to your relationship such as emotional closeness, feeling your partner is there to comfort and support you, affection, and companionship to name a few. Once you have addressed these aspects of being a couple, being physically intimate becomes a natural part of sharing your love with each other.

Being diagnosed with cancer often leads people to reevaluate their lives and sometimes this changes their priorities. If you have been satisfied with your relationship prior to cancer, then I’d expect you would be satisfied after treatment even if your relationship needs some fine tuning. Joining a support group or seeking counseling, whether individually or as a couple, can further help you and your partner.

To find a counselor who specializes in intimacy issues, contact the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.