A woman lying down reaches toward her pelvis as a painful burst emanates from the region. Her partner's hand gently touches her leg.

Community Shares: The Effects of Advanced Breast Cancer on Intimacy

Managing advanced breast cancer is hard, especially when it affects so much of the body. The treatments for the diagnosis often wreak havoc on a woman’s reproductive areas, which, in turn, makes intimacy with a partner difficult and sometimes impossible.

To hear about your experiences, we reached out on the AdvancedBreastCancer.net Facebook page and we asked: “How has metastatic breast cancer affected your intimacy?”

We received responses from 33 of you. Here is what you said.

“It hurts to have sex now.”

Many of you shared that sex has simply become too painful. Because breast cancer treatments bring on early menopause, many women find that they have much, much less estrogen in their systems, and their vaginas become very dry, which makes sex often intolerable.

“It hurts to have sex now, even with lubricants. I hate this disease.”

“Seriously so tired of hearing to just use a lubricant. What a joke.”

“Way too much pain. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband.”

“I now tell everyone I am retired from all that.”

For many of you, you gave up on trying to have sex, which makes sense. When something stops working and stops feeling good, it may be time to stop. Some of you are in relationships where both partners have accepted that intimacy looks different now. Other forms of physical intimacy are possible, such as touching, cuddling, and the like. This might be a good time to get creative, or just to focus on another part of your partnership.

“I now tell everyone I am retired from all that. Between the hormones, menopause, and bone pain, there is no intimacy anymore. Shut down, denied, retired.”

“Ours immediately became a sexless marriage. We still have affection and love. But at 46, that is a hard pill to swallow.”

“It immediately ended it. She was ER+.”

“I do not have a relationship.”

Others have found that relationships become difficult when living with advanced breast cancer. Sadly, dating can be a challenge as many people may not understand what you are going through.

“My partner left me.”

“I have been single for over 20 years. Once a guy finds out about my MBC, he runs!”

“I do not have a relationship.”

“I still have intimacy with my husband.”

A few of you shared that you are not having relations as often, but the act is still possible. You have found ways to make it work. For some women, exercise helps. Cognitive therapy has helped others. There might be ways to make it work, and if not, that is OK, too.

“I still have intimacy with my husband. We are both 67 years old and are married for 45 1/2 years. It does not happen very often, but at least once monthly.”

“No sex for 9 months.”

Others of you have hope that things will change, and you will find a way to make sex work. Sex or no sex, there are many ways to find out what works for you, and hopefully for your partner as well.

“I have a lot of love and affection with my husband, but no sex for 9 months. I feel guilty, sad, and uncomfortable with this situation. I hope that will change soon.”

We want to say thank you to everyone who opened up about this sensitive subject. We appreciate all of your frankness, as it provides answers and understanding for others in the community.

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