Sexual Health, Function, and Identity after Cancer

Upon hearing a cancer diagnosis a person’s world changes immediately and forever. The person becomes a patient. The patient has to make myriad decisions about treatment plans, and the possibility of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. These treatments, while life-saving, are also life-altering. The side effects can modify body image, reduce or end fertility, change sexual identity and sexual function. Approximately 60 percent of cancer survivors have long-term sexual dysfunction. Oncology teams (who may focus more on the life-saving aspects of care) aren’t always taking the time to discuss fertility or sexual health matters as much as they should. But the good news is that our practice can help save a women’s eggs, or a man’s sperm for future use; mitigate and reverse most hormonal changes, and starting in September, we will also offer treatment for men with urological or sexual complaints in our practice. Our newest colleague, Rachel S. Rubin, MD, is specially trained to treat hormonal and sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

Talking about sexual health outside of the bedroom, in the office of a compassionate physician is key to holistic wellness. The emotions of being a cancer survivor can be overwhelming in and of themselves, but to add infertility or sexual dysfunction to the list of health issues can be daunting. We’re here to help you get back on track.

For Men
Following prostate cancer treatment, for example, the ability to have and maintain an erection becomes difficult and for some men, impossible, without help from a medical practice such as ours. Many men may not feel comfortable talking about these intimate issues, but there is help. Our compassionate and caring staff can help men who experiene treatable symptoms. It’s not just about physical symptoms, cancer affects sexual identity and when men are unable to perform as they could prior to cancer treatment, it can have a serious and detrimental effect on one’s psyche. Getting the courage to seek help is the first step to getting back to the “new normal.”

For Women
Breast cancer, when surgery is required, may alter a woman’s body and can hinder sexual identity and function. Breasts, once part of the sexual experience for both partners, are no longer the same. Even when reconstructed, the breasts may feel different, lack the pleasurable sensitivity they once had, or might even be painful and distracting. Sensation might even be completely gone. Partners may also feel hindered by the feeling of the new breasts. This can be uncomfortable for both partners. With any cancer treatment (i.e. chemotherapy, surgical removal of the ovaries or even hysterectomy) a patient may find herself in early/premature menopause with hot flashes, night sweats, disturbed sleep and weight gain. This is also accompanied by vaginal dryness, and pain with genital touching or intercourse. There are options to help enhance the sexual experience that we have available at the office, and that are not available anywhere else.

A wonderful Newsweek article about these issues does a deeper dive from both the patient and physician perspective that we welcome you to read for additional information.

If you are just starting cancer treatment, going through it, or are in the post-treatment phase and are facing future or current fertility concerns, hormonal deficiencies, or sexual dysfunction, we can help. Please call our office at (202) 293-1000 to make an appointment with one of our caring and compassionate members of Dr. James A Simon’s team.

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