Sextherapy after Cancer Treatment
Sex after Cancer Treatment
As a physical therapist that specializes in breast cancer, I noticed that once treatment is complete, there are many challenges that remain to resuming “normal life.” To help address this, I created “#OurTribe,” which is an online community where women share struggles and suggestions. I try to expand on that info through contacting experts, writing blogs and offering products.
As you can imagine, many topics come up in our private #OurTribe Facebook group. Looking for a good moisturizer during radiation? Post reconstruction bra? We've got that covered. But when the topic of sex came up...well we were stumped. One member suggested pole dancing classes, and while we still might try that, I was struck by the general lack of suggestions from these incredibly resourceful women.
I went looking for answers, and fortunately found Dr. Shannon Chavez, a Beverly Hills psychologist and Sex Therapist, whose many areas of expertise include Cancer and Intimacy. I was impressed with her Mind-Body approach, and ability to suggest very practical things (such as the best lube) to more emotional support. I felt confident she would have some answers to our questions. Luckily, Dr. Chavez was willing to offer a workshop at our Beverly Hills clinic.
On October 21st, ten women bravely joined us to discuss Sex after Breast Cancer. A common component of breast cancer treatment involves placing women into menopause. The effects of menopause on their sex life was probably the number one complaint we heard. Decreased libido, vaginal dryness and pain can all result from decreased estrogen.
Luckily, Dr. Chavez had some advice. We learned that the skin in the vagina can be moisturized daily just like the skin on your face! Imagine how dry, flakey skin anywhere else on your body can be itchy, irritated, and more prone to cracks and cuts. The same is true for vaginal skin. We received free samples of “moisture drops” by Hip Hemp (https://www.hiphemp.com/product/moisture-drops/). These little drops are actually small “pearls” containing organic hemp oil, grape seed and vitamin E. It is recommended to insert vaginally at bedtime.
In addition to daily moisturizing, lubrication is essential. Dr. Chavez’s favorite is from a German company, called “Pjur Med.” They offer both silicone and water based lubes.
If all the moisture in the world isn’t enough to soothe your angry vagina, the newly revamped female condom might be just the thing. One end of the condom is inserted similarly to a Nuvaring, where you pinch a small, flexible circle and insert into the vagina. The other end remains outside of the body (if my description leaves more questions than answers, check out https://fc2.us.com for more info). The condom is latex free and lubricated on both sides. The material of the condom can act as a barrier between vaginal wall and penis and may reduce pain.
For some, lack of moisture is only part of the reason sex after cancer can be painful and unpleasant. Tight pelvic floor muscles can certainly be an issue. Luckily, RSI employs several talented physical therapists specially trained in just this issue. Our therapists can help loosen these muscles through massage and special exercises and stretches.
The two hours scheduled for our workshop flew by, and with a giant basket of vibrators for us to explore, the workshop went over the allotted time. We decided we needed more- we barely touched on the emotional components surrounding your body after the invasive, life altering treatments for breast cancer. In addition, we thought the spouses would benefit from a similar workshop, and we are in the process of creating a “Couples Only” one to be held in early December.
For information on upcoming events held at RSI and specially created for breast cancer thrivers, follow us on social media!