Let’s talk about sex...and breast cancer

Let’s talk about sex…and breast cancer

This article is supported by our partner, Breast Cancer Trials.

We know that sometimes it’s a struggle to muster up the mojo for some ‘sexy time’: children, tiredness, irritating man habits can all make us feel decidedly unsexy, and chuck in a liberal dose of pandemic anxiety, it’s understandable that we’re all finding it difficult to get jiggy with it.

But imagine trying to feel sexy when you’re going through treatments for breast cancer with symptoms like low libido, full body rashes, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and more, that can make it feel VERY unsexy.

We all know how important it is physically and mentally to keep up a healthy sex life for both you and your partner, so, Breast Cancer Trials, Australasia’s largest oncology research group is here to help with their free, virtual Q&A – Breast Cancer Trials: Let’s Talk About Sex – which is taking place on September 30th and hosted by journalist Annabel Crabb.

The Q&A will give people the opportunity to ask questions and hear from experts and breast cancer patients about breast cancer, sex, and body image – nothing is off limits! The session will shed light on new trials, tips and tricks on how to improve sex issues and an opportunity for people to share their concerns in a safe, expert and anonymous environment.

Professor Fran Boyle, one of the country’s leading breast cancer experts and a panel member on the upcoming Q&A said, “Breast cancer affects the parts of the body which are important for women’s arousal as well as body image. When breasts are sore or numb post-surgery, women may not want to be touched. Additionally, women’s vaginas and vulvas are estrogen sensitive and breast cancer treatment can create sudden hormone changes that can lead to a dry vagina and irritated vulva, which again doesn’t lend itself to patient’s wanting to be touched intimately.”

The Q&A will not only cover treatments, tips, and research into the physical symptoms, but delve into the emotional aspects. As Professor Boyle explains, “We know that libido starts mostly in the brain, so it is very sensitive to stress. It can be impacted by fatigue, worries about body image, sudden changes in hormone levels due to treatments and other side effects.”

But this can leave partners feeling lost and unsure on how to be close and reassuring. These changes to a couple’s intimate relationship can leave both parties feeling concerned and that their closeness is changing.

Rebecca Angus (36), a breast cancer survivor and a panelist, will be on hand to share her first-person experience and how she overcame some of the issues, including talking to her husband about her insecurities.

“I think it’s really important to normalise conversations about sex and breast cancer, both with your medical professionals but also with your partner. Having a good sex life within a relationship is so valuable for anyone with cancer.

“Sex is explored at the beginning of chemotherapy education with your medical professional. However, it mainly focuses on fertility preservation, ovarian suppression and contraception during treatment. There seems to be a gap when it comes to discussing the health benefits of engaging in sexual activities, which could be crucial for anyone struggling with their mental health.”

With 1 in 7 women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, that’s over 20,000 women this year alone, and most of these women struggling one way or another with body image and issues with sex, that is a lot of women that are suffering with these issues and maybe unsure or ashamed to discuss them with anyone.

Breast Cancer Trials wants to ensure that all those women know that they are certainly not alone and that there are answers. All Q&A participants will be able to ask a question as part of their registration process.

The Breast Cancer Trials Q&A Event – Let’s Talk about Sex is free to register and takes place virtually on 30th September 2021 between 5-6.30pm (AEST). The panel will be moderated by Annabel Crabb and features Professor Fran Boyle, Dr Belinda Kiely, Professor Kate White and Ms Rebecca Angus. You can register for the event here and ask your questions to the experts.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox