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    No.120: Getting Your Groove Back - Intimacy After Breast Cancer

    Guest post by FemmePharma

    At AnaOno we believe that sharing information within our community is crucial to successful treatment, recovery and wellbeing. Though there are more resources available now than ever before, there are still topics that seem to be taboo—things that the people around us are afraid to talk about and that medical professionals don’t always bring up. Part of AnaOno’s #NeverAlone philosophy is that we are not afraid to talk about anything. Have a question about bringing back the sexy after cancer treatment? You are definitely not alone! We invited FemmePharma to share their expertise here.

    During our many years in the healthcare industry, our Founder and CEO and team have conducted market research and spoken to a lot of women about their most intimate health issues. How they feel about themselves and their sexuality, and how a number of things can change that. Like surviving and thriving after breast cancer treatment and managing the detrimental side effects of treatment on sexual function.

    Fatigue, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, negative body image, loss of libido … who can blame a woman for losing her desire for intimacy? When you’re looking at your surgical scars, feeling fatigued and unattractive, and sex is just downright painful, physical intimacy may be the last thing on your mind. 

    But for many of us, intimate relationships are essential to health and well-being. Successfully managing the side effects of breast cancer treatment is key to living and thriving beyond breast cancer.

    You can and will get your groove back. The question is, how? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind after breast cancer treatment.

    Lotion on a leg that was shaped in a heart

    You Are Beautiful

    After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, your body will look and feel different. Take time to get to know the “new you.” Embrace her. Give your self-confidence a boost by doing things you love to do – things that make you feel attractive and confident – with people you care about. 

    If you are feeling uncomfortable with your body because of scars from surgery or weight gain that came with the chemotherapy, try wearing lingerie that you feel beautiful and sexy in. There are so manyunique styles specially designed with features and fabrics that address the needs of breast cancer patients, survivors and thrivers during treatment, recovery and beyond. 

    Feeling good about yourself is one important step in recharging your libido.

    Ease Back into It When You’re Ready

    Some treatments for breast cancer, such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, can cause treatment-induced menopause. When estrogen levels drop, vaginal and vulvar membranes shrink, become less flexible and produce less lubricating fluid. Some post-menopausal survivors suffer severe vulvovaginal atrophy. Sexual intercourse that once brought pleasure becomes painful. 

    Unfortunately, this is common. 

    A recent study in theJournal of Endocrinology and Clinical Metabolism found that 79 to 95 percent of women experience estrogen deficiency-related symptoms after breast cancer, and 80 percent of women between the ages of 50 - 59 reported sexual symptoms such as vulvar and vaginal dryness, irritation, burning, painful intercourse and loss of libido. 

    Fortunately, it is manageable.

    You moisturize your lips and face every day. So, why ignore your intimate lips? Try using avulvar moisturizer to keep the vulvar tissue hydrated and moisturized. Additionally, using a vaginal moisturizer will ensure that the internal walls of your vagina are not dry. Make this a part of your daily regimen to help to maintain overall hydration. Using a water-based lubricant during intercourse can help ease discomfort, and by trying different positions, you and your partner can find what works best for you. You might even spice up your sex life with things you may not have tried before, such as sex toys. 

    Open and honest communication with your partner about your symptoms, and what does and does not work for you, will put you firmly back on the path to intimacy.

    Two friends laughing together, holding coffee mugs

    Be Mindful of Your Mindset

    We’ve all heard the saying that a woman’s most powerful sexual organ is her brain. True or not, maintaining a healthy, positive frame of mind can help you and your libido live well beyond breast cancer. 

    Consider joining a support group or online community to connect with others who share your feelings, questions and concerns. Anyone who’s ever seen or joined a breast cancer support event knows there’s life-affirming power in numbers. 

    In the digital world, a recent study in theJournal of Clinical Oncology suggests that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy can significantly reduce the impact of treatment-induced menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleeplessness and stress, and improve overall quality of life. 

    Other studies suggest that activities like journaling and holistic medicine techniques like meditation, yoga and even self-acupressure can help relieve depression, anxiety and pain.

    Wisdom We All Share

    Two models outside smiling together, one in front, one behind coming around to place hands on their shoulders

    Remember the basics: eat healthfully, get plenty of rest, and exercise. We all know regular physical activity reaps many health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular function, keeping bones strong, controlling weight gain, and improving our overall sense of well-being. It also produces endorphins which can enhance your sex life.

    And don’t forget the lingerie.
    FemmePharma is the first and only company dedicated to women’s menopausal health. FemmePharma is created by women, backed by science, and ready to take on the world.

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.