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Lisa Martinez: Community: Cancer and Its Impact on Female Sexuality and Intimacy

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I founded The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation in 2003 to bridge the gap due to the lack of information in the area of women’s sexual health disorders that existed for women and healthcare providers and educators.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. It was not until I was given Judy Kneece’s book Your Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook at the time of my diagnosis and came to the chapter on Sexuality After Breast Cancer did it strike me that cancer would impact my entire being, including possibly sexual function. When I first heard the words “you have breast cancer”, concerns about body image and intimacy were not at the top of my list. Saving my life was.

For many, cancer is a chronic disease. As with any chronic disease there can be an impact to one’s quality of life. But when I came across the sexuality section in Judy’s book, I realized that not only would I loose a breast, there were so many ramifications to the surgery and the treatments to follow.

I was fortunate because I knew Judy and instantly e-mailed her for wisdom. Also I had access to the world’s experts in sexual health. Many are on The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation’s Advisory Board. However, I am acutely aware that not all women have this type of access and that is why I felt compelled to write this article.

Reclaiming Intimacy

Life does change after cancer, but that does not mean women cannot reclaim many aspects of the quality of the life they had before cancer. One area that is often not discussed with cancer survivors is that of sexual function and intimacy. A survivor may wonder if surgery or radiation or various cancer medications may impact the intimacy she once had. These are important questions and she has every right to have them addressed by her physician.

One out of three women will have cancer in her lifetime. Cancer and cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and hormonal therapy can impact a woman’s ability to enjoy sex. Plus, many of the procedures are very intrusive and after being poked and prodded over several months, the last thing that may be on a woman’s mind is any form of intimacy.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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