By ANNIE MILLER
Dating dilemmas! “What should I wear? Where should we go? When should I reveal I no longer have breasts?”
This isn’t something that most of us think about while getting ready to go on a date, but there are a growing number of women faced with this very real concern.
I regularly have women ask me when they should discuss their breasts – or lack thereof – with new partners. Women with supportive partners also come to me looking for advice on how to deal with changes to their sex life and body image after cancer.
Many cancer survivors face challenges adapting to life after cancer due to the physical and emotional impact of the disease. My colleagues and I often speak to women who have said diagnosis and treatment can feel like a whirlwind, then all of a sudden these women are thankfully told they are fine, come back for an medical check-up in six months, but we know they are going home and wondering what now?
One woman really summed it up. She wanted to pick her life back up, be able to support herself and start dating again but she asked what should she say when she starts dating? “Oh hi, I would love to go out on a date but I don’t have breasts, I have chemo brain so don’t be offended if I forget your name and, by the way, I probably can’t have kids.”
Although these stories are not unusual, people are often surprised to learn that body image and sexuality issues are reported as some of the most distressing survivorship concerns. More than 40 per cent of cancer survivors experience sexual difficulties after treatment.
Unlike many other side effects of cancer treatment, changes to sexual function can linger for more than two years after treatment. And to make it worse, these challenges often cause cancer survivors and their partners’ level of anxiety and depression to increase. This makes their overall quality of life deteriorate.