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Maturitas. 2010 Aug;66(4):397-407. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.03.027. Epub 2010 May 2.

Sexuality after breast cancer: a review.

Author information

1
Gender, Culture and Health Research: PsyHealth, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, New South Wales, Australia. e.gilbert@uws.edu.au

Erratum in

  • Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):312. Emilee, Gilbert [corrected to Gilbert, Emilee].

Abstract

It is widely recognised that women's sexuality can be particularly complex after breast cancer, with sexual changes often becoming the most problematic aspect of a woman's life. The impact of such changes can last for many years after successful treatment, and can be associated with serious physical and emotional side-effects. The objective of this paper is to review research on breast cancer and sexuality from the years 1998 to 2010. Research has documented a range of physical changes to a woman's sexuality following breast cancer, including disturbances to sexual functioning, as well as disruptions to sexual arousal, lubrication, orgasm, sexual desire, and sexual pleasure, resulting from chemotherapy, chemically induced menopause, tamoxifen, and breast cancer surgery. Women's intrapsychic experience of changes to sexuality includes a fear of loss of fertility, negative body image, feelings of sexual unattractiveness, loss of femininity, depression and anxiety, as well as alterations to a sense of sexual self. The discursive construction of femininity and sexuality shapes the way women construct and experience their illness and their body - leading many women to try to appear 'normal' to others post-breast surgery. Finally, the quality of a woman's partnered relationship consistently predicts sexual health post-breast cancer - reinforcing the importance of recognising the intersubjective nature of issues surrounding breast cancer and sexuality. It is concluded that analyses of sexuality in the context of breast cancer cannot conceptualise the physical body separately from women's intrapsychic negotiation, her social and relational context, and the discursive constructions of sexuality and femininity: a material-discursive-intrapsychic interaction.

PMID:
20439140
DOI:
10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.03.027
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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