FIRST PERSON | Research presented at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Connections: Advancing Care Through Science conference discloses that decreased sexual interest is the most common complaint among women with breast cancer. 13.8 million women are breast cancer survivors in the United States. The research reported on results from 896 women.
The Oncology Nurse Advisor reports the research presented at the conference included information taken from the American Cancer Society Study of Cancer Survivors II. The study showed that among the 896 women included in the ONS research, 21.1 percent of them reported a decrease in sexual interest. This does not surprise me. As a one-year cancer survivor and someone still undergoing treatment, I can relate to the study.
Breast cancer is not sexy
Despite the media and marketing industry's attempt to objectify breast cancer as something sexy, with stupid terms like "save second base" or "I love boobies," those of us who are fighting cancer don't see it as sexy.
I lost my left breast to breast cancer. Chemo put me into early menopause and made my hair fall out. My body image has changed forever -- I will never look the same as I did before cancer. Scars tell the tale of my battle and most days I still feel like crap. Do I think about sex? Yes, but I miss the way it used to be. What I am dealing with now is something drug-induced and artificial.
Doctors don't tell
My oncologist did not discuss all of the issues I would face with chemotherapy-induced menopause. I expected hot flashes and the end of my cycle. That was just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more symptoms that coincide with chemo-induced menopause -- too many to discuss in this article and many are too personal for me to talk about in print.
Dealing with a radically different body image, scarring, feeling awful -- both emotionally and physically -- takes its toll on sex drive. Women like me do think about sex. We want to get back what chemo and surgery has taken away. I do believe that the research is correct on this. What surprises me is that only 21.1 percent of the women in the study said that they had a decrease in sexual interest. I thought the number would be much higher.
Lynda Altman was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011. She writes a series for Yahoo! Shine called "My Battle With Breast Cancer."