Nearly half of women diagnosed with breast cancer have experienced sexual difficulties as a result of treatment, a new survey suggests.
The research, conducted by Breast Cancer Now and YouGov, questioned more than 1,000 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 10 years.
The results showed that nearly half (46 per cent) of women surveyed said they had experienced sexual difficulties, including vaginal dryness, pain and loss of libido.
However, a large number of these women (34 per cent) admitted they didn’t ask their hospital team or GP for support, despite needing help.
More than half (54 per cent) said the reason they didn’t reach out was because they were too embarrassed, while others said they were worried about wasting the doctor’s time (45 per cent), felt the problem was too trivial to raise (48 per cent), didn’t know who to turn to (40 per cent), or were worried their concerns would be dismissed (29 per cent).
Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Now, said: “Breast cancer treatments like chemotherapy and hormone treatment can come with a range of side effects that may affect your sex life and ability to be intimate.
“These can include changes to how you experience arousal and orgasm, as well as vaginal dryness, irritation and pain.”
Rawson added that breast cancer affects everyone differently and that it’s important for each woman to do whatever feels right for them.
“It may take time for you to feel physically well enough or able to cope emotionally with any form of sexual activity,” Rawson said. “However, some people might want to get back to intimacy and sex as soon as possible.”
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK with around 55,000 women and 370 men being diagnosed every year.
The findings come as Breast Cancer Now joins forces with Ann Summers for a new partnership designed to help start the conversation about issues related to sex and intimacy after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Additionally, the partnership aims to raise at least £100,000 over the next year for Breast Cancer Now, through the sales of a product range and other fundraising activities.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said that the two brands hope to highlight the scale of the issues women are facing.
“We know that for many people, breast cancer simply doesn’t end when they walk out of the hospital doors, as the side-effects from treatment can affect every facet of their lives for many years,” Morgan says.
She added: “These difficulties, including very personal issues around sex and intimacy, often go unspoken, with women not knowing where to turn, or being too embarrassed to ask for help.”
Anyone looking for support and information about breast cancer and sex can call Breast Cancer Now’s free helpline on 0808 800 6000 to speak to one of its expert nurses.