The Pink October campaign has as main objective to call attention to a problem that affects a large portion of the female population, which is breast cancer.However, in addition to prevention and women’s health, another issue is beginning to be increasingly debated: female sexuality during treatment.
Many women who experience this problem do not know how to deal with the physical and psychological changes caused by the disease, and believe that their sex life is over.
In today’s text, I will talk about the importance of sex during and after breast cancer treatment and give some tips that can help during this period. Come on?
We will cover the following topics:
- What is Pink October?
- What is breast cancer;
- The taboo on sex and cancer;
- Side effects of breast cancer;
- Sex and self-image;
- Tips to improve sexuality in breast cancer treatment;
- Additional advice;
- Ask for help.
What is Pink October?
In summary, the October Rose is an awareness campaign, whose main objective is to alert women and society about the importance of prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer .
This campaign takes place with more intensity in the month of October and has the pink bow as a symbol.
Look, the movement started to emerge in 1990, when the first Healing Race took place in New York; and since then, it is promoted annually in the city.
However, it was only in 1997 that entities in the cities of Yuba and Lodi, also in the United States, started promoting activities aimed at the diagnosis and prevention of the disease, choosing the month of October as the epicenter of the actions.
Currently, the pink October is held in several places around the world.
Pink October in Brazil
In Brazil, breast cancer awareness campaigns have been running since 2002.
On the occasion, a group of women, together with a European cosmetics brand, adorned the Ibirapuera Obelisk, located in the city of São Paulo, with pink lights.
Subsequently, INCA began to participate in the campaign in 2010, with the promotion of spaces for discussion and awareness about the disease.
Soon after, in the following year, prevention of cervical cancer was also included in the actions of several states.
Namely, advertising adopted the shade of pink as a motivator for campaigns in the period, and actions on social media also tend to be reinforced during this month
The goal of the campaign is to share information about breast cancer and, more recently, cervical cancer.
This promotes awareness about diseases, providing greater access to diagnostic services and contributing to the reduction of mortality.
In addition, the campaign’s name refers to the color of the ribbon, which is an international symbol used by individuals, companies and organizations in the fight and prevention of breast cancer.
In fact, it is for this reason that, during that month, the color pink illuminates the façade of several public and private institutions, with the objective of promoting and indicating adherence to the movement.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the result of a multiplication of abnormal cells in the breast, which forms a tumor with the potential to invade other organs.
Therefore, the earlier the diagnosis, the more chances of cure.
If discovered early, there is a 95% probability of full recovery.
According to data from the National Cancer Institute (Inca) , breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women worldwide and in Brazil, after non-melanoma skin, accounting for about 25% of new cases each year .
In addition, breast cancer also affects men , but it is rare, representing only 1% of the total cases of the disease.
It is the type that most causes the death of women in Brazil. The estimate is 60,000 new cases per year in increasingly younger women.
The taboo on sex and cancer
First of all, one of the new points addressed by the pink October campaign concerns the sexuality of women with the disease.
In Brazil, talking openly about sex with cancer patients is still taboo.
In the United States, the topic is already widely debated and even a specific term was created for this discussion – “ oncosexology ”, which deals with the sexuality of cancer patients.
However, in Brazil, the agenda is neglected in professional training.
As a result, sex is not covered in training, and many doctors are uncomfortable talking about it. They do not know what to recommend or do not think the patient will be interested in sex after treatment, especially if she is older.
This is a big mistake!
Look, not all doctors and nurses feel comfortable discussing sexual issues and practices.
Most professionals do not usually ask about sex life; and patients generally do not discuss love life with a doctor who has not mentioned it. That is, nobody is talking!
Many women are not informed about the impact that breast cancer and its treatment can have on their sex lives, leaving them suffering in silence.
Therefore, it is crucial that this taboo is broken.
It is necessary that everyone diagnosed with breast cancer has the opportunity to talk about sex, intimacy and altered body image to help get the support they need.
Side effects of breast cancer
Treatments for breast cancer result in several sexual side effects.
However, the symptoms are not universal.
In short, the type, dosage and duration of medications can determine whether a woman will suffer from the effects and what types.
Therefore, the most common include:
- Numbness or hypersensitivity of the breast area (due to surgery);
- Radiation burns and changes in the texture and color of breast tissues (due to radiation);
- Vaginal pain ;
- Burning and vaginal atrophy (due to chemotherapy and endocrine therapy).
Fatigue is an extreme tiredness that does not disappear with rest or sleep.
It is a common side effect of cancer treatment.
It may get worse as treatment progresses and may continue after treatment has ended.
The treatments most likely to cause fatigue are chemotherapy and radiation therapy, although surgery and hormonal therapies can also affect your energy levels.
If the woman is feeling tired, she may not want to have sex or may have a less active role.
So it is important to be aware of your current limits and not try too hard, see?
Since the tiredness will gradually decrease over time and the patient will have more energy for sex.
Symptoms of menopause
Symptoms of menopause can occur as a result of breast cancer treatments.
In the meantime, they can be temporary or permanent and include:
- Heat waves;
- Night sweat;
- Vaginal dryness.
They can result in less sensation during arousal, which means that the woman may not have an orgasm, have difficulty reaching it, or the intensity may be reduced.
In addition, women may feel too tired to be interested in sex, perhaps as a result of symptoms such as night sweats.
Look, younger women undergoing breast cancer treatment may experience menopausal symptoms that are initially more intense than those of natural menopause.
Anyway, having these symptoms can make them feel older than they are, which can negatively affect how they feel sexually.
Changes in the way you experience orgasm
The effects of breast cancer and its treatments can affect how you experience orgasm .
There is evidence that chemotherapy can cause arousal problems, especially right after treatment.
In fact, some antidepressant medications can reduce sexual desire and make reaching a climax difficult.
In addition, tension and anxiety can also reduce your ability to get aroused and reach orgasm; therefore, you and your partner may want to explore techniques that help them relax.
Sex and self-image
Many women with breast cancer also find themselves dealing with changes in appearance as a result of treatment.
Likewise, some may be short-term, such as hair loss.
Even so, these can have a profound effect on how a woman feels about herself.
Several options are available to help them deal with hair loss, including wigs, hats, scarves and other accessories.
In addition, as an alternative, some women choose to use their baldness as a way to identify themselves as breast cancer survivors.
In fact, other changes are more permanent, such as partial or total loss of a breast (or breasts) after surgery.
In fact, breasts are seen as a symbol of pleasure and beauty for many, and dealing with their loss can be devastating.
However, there are several ways to deal with this new phase!
Some women choose to have reconstructive surgery to reconstruct the breast mound.
And others choose to use a prosthesis or a breast shape.
In fact, other women go a little further and get tattoos as a symbol of overcoming. The fact is that there is always a way to accept this new phase of life!
In addition to all the changes, some women still have to deal with a discouraging factor: the abandonment of their partners.
A CBN report points out that more than 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are abandoned by their husbands.
And that doesn’t just happen in Brazil.
Namely, a survey by Stanford and Utah universities and the Seatle Cancer Care Alliance Research Center, all in the United States, indicated that the woman is six times more likely to be abandoned by her husband after the discovery of a serious illness.
Unfortunately, many men abandon women because they believe that the disease is too complicated to deal with.
However, there are also several cases of relationships that came out stronger after the couple faced the problem together.
What’s more, there are still cases of women who rediscovered themselves after breast cancer and managed to be much happier than before, with new people.
Tips to improve sexuality in breast cancer treatment
If you are experiencing this problem, here are some tips to improve sexuality during breast cancer treatment!
It is not always easy to talk about sex during such a delicate moment, but communication with your partner is very important.
Find the right environment for you to talk openly about how you feel and what can work in the room.
Try to discuss what has changed in your relationship, what is pleasant, what is uncomfortable or painful, where you would like to be touched.
Look, you can have feelings of tension and worry about feeling pain during sex. Your partner may also be anxious or afraid.
So, talk honestly with him about what kind of activity can cause pain or sensitivity that can help you both relax.
Other ways of intimacy
First, reading together erotic fiction and mutual masturbation (touching each other intimately) can use less energy and avoid painful or sensitive areas of the body.
In this way, explore new ways to enjoy intimacy, including: sex without penetration , oral sex, sex toys, hugs, kisses and massages .
Try experimenting with different sexual positions until you find one that is most comfortable for you.
Therefore, it can be a position that exerts less pressure on the chest, such as lying side by side or in a “spoon” position (with the partner lying behind you).
Use the right lubricant
Having vaginal dryness and irritation, which results in painful intercourse is a common complaint in women who have had cancer, particularly those undergoing hormone treatments.
So it is important to use a good sexual lubricant , especially if you are unable to use topical vaginal estrogen products.
Certainly vaginal lubricants tend to have a shorter action than moisturizers and are water or oil based.
If you’re using condoms, you’ll need to avoid oil-based lubricants, as they can break the condom, okay?
After all, they are intended to help prevent chafing and pain during sex and intimacy, but they can also be used more generally to relieve dryness and discomfort.
The sex toys are not only a great way to explore new sexual feelings, but can also help sexual health problems.
Certainly, many women find that, due to treatment, they take longer to reach orgasm, or struggle with decreased sexual sensation.
Therefore, using a simple vibrator on the clitoris during foreplay is a great idea or also for individual pleasure.
In fact, be aware that vibrators can even help with the vaginal tightening that some women experience as a result of treatment.
The use of a fine vibrator or vaginal dilators can help to stretch the tissues of the vagina and improve flexibility and circulation.
In fact, fatigue is a major problem for people with cancer.
So if you feel physically drained at night, try having sex in the morning or during the day.
For example, even quick sex can be fun and reduce your fatigue.
And while it may seem strange, slowly increasing the amount of physical activity you do, you can have more energy for sex!
If you can, exercise regularly. This can help with the physical and psychological side effects of the treatment, which in turn improves body image and mood.
Discover new erotic zones
First of all, if your breasts were large erogenous zones for you before surgery, you may be feeling particularly desolate after a mastectomy.
Anyway, one solution is to discover other areas of your body, instead of insisting on those areas where you still have problems with sensitivity or body image.
So for some women, decreased arousal in areas of breast tissue or scarred areas can serve as a painful reminder that their sex life has changed.
Instead, think of areas such as shoulders, ears and knees, as new erotic zones.
These are not lubricants, which must be used during sex!
Instead, they are like the moisturizers you use on your face and hands to benefit the tissues themselves.
Thus, they are introduced as suppositories in the vagina, adding moisture back to the vaginal space and giving this natural elasticity.
Look, it should be absorbed and it helps the vagina to be more healthy and moist for several days.
From the same point of view, the classic Kegel exercises – which is basically tightening and releasing the sphincter muscle, as you do when you urinate – that so many women use during pregnancy are also great for facilitating sexual intercourse.
If the sex was painful, you can contract it by anticipating the pain. If you practice Kegels before intimacy, you tire your vaginal muscles and become “more open”
Ask for help
Finally, the Pink October draws attention to a serious problem and reminds that all women need help.
So don’t close yourself off and look for someone who can help you.
Even if you are having trouble adjusting after a breast cancer diagnosis, a doctor or a support group can be helpful.
Remember: your sex life is not over because of this disease.
Undeniably, you can do the treatment without leaving aside intimacy with your partner! You are strong and can be happy as you battle for recovery!
You are strong and can be happy as you battle for recovery!