How breast cancer survivors (and other women, too) can improve their sex lives

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Last week I described some of the sexual problems faced by breast cancer survivors following treatment. I promised to return to the topic this week in order to highlight specific strategies that survivors can use to address common sexual problems – and that many other women may find help to make their sex lives better too. Ready?

1. Make friends with lube! Lube can make sex a heck of a lot more comfortable and pleasurable. Female breast cancer survivors commonly experience vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse, and using a water-based lubricant or silicone-based lubricant can help. I’m a fan of Good Clean Love and Just Like Me because their ingredients tend to be more vagina-friendly than certain other Brands Which Shall Not Be Named, but you should use what feels most comfortable to. If you are trying to become pregnant, you might skip lubricant altogether (as some brands slow down sperm) or ask your doctor if she or he recommends a specific fertility-friendly brand.

2. Strategize about sex. Timing really does matter. Rather than try to be intimate with your partner when you are exhausted or worn out, try to have sex during times of the day when you are likely to be more energetic such as in the morning.

3. Get in on a game. Breast cancer and other illnesses tend to remind women and men about their fears of losing one another, and these difficult feelings can get in the way of desire, arousal and feeling connected. Some women find that novelty sex games (check out Early to Bed, Tulip , g Boutique and Babeland for their latest offerings, or other shops near you) can help to bring back some of the fun, pleasure and enjoyment of sexual intimacy.

To learn more about sexuality following cancer treatment, read Living Beyond Breast Cancer: A Survivor’s Guide for When Treatment Ends and the Rest of Your Life Begins.

[Originally published in my weekly column on CheekyChicago.com]

[Above photo by Gare and Kitty, via Flickr.]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • Ray

    I am a 56 year old dating a 53 year old breast canser survivor of 5-years

  • Ray

    I am a 56 Year good looking tall athletic looking sucessful businessman trying to stay connected to my 53 year old girlfriend of 3-years. She is a breast Cancer survivor of 5-years. I want sex every-time I see her as soon as I see her (only on the weekends), shes one of the hottest 53 year olds out there. For 53 she takes good care of herself and has a very attractive body even after breast cancer, always dresses seductively. But shes so not the least bit interested in sex anymore. She talks nasty and use to send me nasty cartoons or jokes but sex is on the bottom of her list.The last two times a month ago were just quickies that just felt like get it over with. She can say stuff that insinuates that there will be sex later but once we hit that room for sleep that's all she wants to do. She also takes sleeping pills right before bed every-night!
    I thought of doing a switch on the pills with something that gets her horny again but I would never do that to anyone.
    I tried to change the day I see her from the weekend to the weekday this past week. I called her and said I was going to be in town and she offered to make dinner (she never cooks). She made me dinner after getting out of the shower (looking sexy as ever). I announced that I am spending the night and after watching her fave TV show we headed to the bed room. I took a quick shower to freshen up and we both hit the bed. Then this all familiar chill permeated the room when I asked if she wanted to fool around and she announced that she was spent. So I did the gentleman's thing and rubbed her tired back……for about two seconds.Then I could not take another second of another week or should say a month with out a intimate moment of her loving. I got up got dressed and left after telling her ” I am not sleeping with her again, I have had it. I don't know what I am going to do but its not sleeping here with a Ice Princess”.
    I was so pissed I could not see straight as I drove home. I wish at times I never met her and this was the final straw from all her excuses, I have heard it all and the situations she presented that prevented a intimate moment were endless.
    I got home and proceeded to start packing her things in a box still pissed as ever. I then got on-line a type out a email to send her that she would see once she got to her office in the morning announcing that unless things change I am gone…..I did not send it.

    Instead I did a little research at 2 in the morning. I looked up ” Sex after Breast Cancer”. What a eye opener. I read and read, article after article, it was like reading all about her. Then this strange calm came to me as I thought…”.Its not me” and ” Its not her” it was the Cancer Chemo Treatments. Wow, Now I'm a strong A-type of guy and I started to get a tear in my eye as I read and read and I am still reading every night these past couple of days. I guess I am way too much in love with her to kick her to the curb.
    So I decided to be proactive for next 30-days and see how this plays out. I ordered some supplements for her from the recommendations on sites and I advised her today that I want her to please take these for me. I don't think I will sleep with her till improvements are made for my own sake. I feel like I have a kick stand attached when I sleep with her.
    I am going to ask her to see her scars this weekend since she is so ashamed of them and her too hard implants. I am going to learn everything I can about the subject to see if I can save our relation. BTW: We have so much fun doing stuff every weekend so were very compatible.
    But to be honest and I might get shot down for this but I think she has accepted her lack of desire for sex for so long before me that its easiest to stay in that mindset rather than make the change. If that happens I think were done with, I have gone the extra mile and I am sorry but to lay next to this gorgeous specimen of a woman and not being able to pleasure her is more than a man can take and I don't care who you are. She could make a gay guy go straight if he slept in the same bed with her.