Breast cancer and sexual health: the impact of treatment on sexual life, self-concept, relationships, and the intimate partner
Mascia, Nicolina Silvia
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As breast cancer survival rates increase, quality of life issues should be addressed, specifically regarding sexual health. Breast cancer treatment can lead to sexual dysfunction, alterations in sexual self-concept, body image, self-esteem, and relationship issues which can cause a depressed quality of life. These sexual health issues can also uniquely affect the intimate partner. It appears that a strong relationship and supportive intimate partner can protect against the stressors due to these sexual problems. Addressing sexual concerns, whether physical, psychological, or relational are a clear necessity in managing the care of patients with breast cancer, regardless of partner status, age, or disease stage. Clinicians and medical professionals should address these issues in patient care plans, examinations, and patient education, focusing not only on the patient but also on the couple as a unit. However, there are barriers to communication in regards to sexuality on both the part of the physician and the patient that cause a discrepancy between available resources and patients actually receiving them. Developing effective treatment plans and interventions are essential in improving the quality of life in women suffering from physical, psychological, and relational sexual issues due to the management of breast cancer.