Research reveals thousands of women’s sex lives are affected following breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK with around 55,000 women and 370 men being diagnosed every year.

And now new statistics from UK Charity Breast Cancer Now have revealed that thousands of women with breast cancer have admitted that treatment for the disease has had a devastating impact on their sexual wellbeing.

Their survey of over 1,000 of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the last decade – carried out by YouGov – revealed that almost half (46 per cent) of the women questioned had experienced sexual difficulties as a result of treatment.

Further figures showed that a third (34 per cent) who experienced sexual difficulties said that they needed support but didn’t ask their hospital team or GP for it, with over half (54 per cent) saying that this was because they were too embarrassed to raise the issue.

Other reasons cited included the following:

  • I worried about wasting the time of my hospital team or GP (45 per cent)
  • I felt it was too trivial to raise (48 per cent)
  • I didn’t know who to ask (40 per cent)
  • I worried my concerns would be dismissed (29 per cent).

According to Breast Cancer Now, the survey suggests that more than 150,000 women in the UK have experienced sexual difficulties, including pain, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, as a result of breast cancer treatment.

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Following breast cancer treatment in 2018, which included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapies, Keeley Russell, 42, from Hertfordshire, reveals she was too embarrassed to ask for help when facing issues relating to sex and intimacy.

She said, “As soon as chemotherapy started, sex became unbelievably painful and my libido basically disappeared. However, because it’s such a taboo subject, I was too embarrassed to ask my GP for help even though I needed it. I finally ended up emailing him instead which still felt mortifying.

“Not really understanding what was going on made things much worse. My doctors had explained how treatment might affect my nails and hair, but no one mentioned how treatment could cause changes, like pain, and what that meant for me and my enjoyment of sex.

“Fortunately my sexual difficulties have started to improve slightly due to time, understanding and awareness but this is a long-term issue and support is essential.”

The findings come as Breast Cancer Now and Ann Summers launch a new partnership to help start the conversation about issues related to sex and intimacy after a diagnosis of breast cancer.