Sexuality and Intimacy

holding hands

This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information from a range of reliable sources on issues affecting your sexuality and intimacy after breast cancer. This information is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.

The information is aimed at women with early breast cancer who may be dealing with the physical and emotional consequences of their diagnosis and treatment. Issues around sexuality and intimacy affect both single and partnered women. Having access to quality information can help you to understand issues that can arise, and identify strategies to assist.

Last Updated: 2 April, 2024 1:24 pm

Below is a list of questions related to sexuality and intimacy after cancer that you may want to consider when seeking help. You may want to ask these questions of your breast care nurse or doctor before, during or after treatment. You may want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. Having the answers to these questions may help with talking to your partner or future partner about your feelings around sex and intimacy. You can ask the questions as they appear here, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.

  • How will this treatment affect my sexuality?
  • Are the changes likely to be temporary or permanent? If temporary, how long will I experience them for?
  • I feel like this whole experience has affected my sense of sexuality and I need to talk with someone about this. Who can I talk to?
  • Who can my partner and I talk to if we have problems we can’t resolve between ourselves?
  • My partner is finding it difficult to cope with the changes. Who can they talk to?
  • When will I be able to have sex again?
  • Are there times when sex should be avoided?
  • I’m not interested in having sex. Will this be permanent?
  • I'm not interested in having sex. Is there anything I can do?
  • It hurts when I have sex. Why? What can I do about it?
  • I am having trouble reaching orgasm. Why is this? Will it always be like this? What can I do about this?
  • What do you recommend for vaginal dryness?
  • Can I you refer me to a sexual counsellor or therapist?

These listings provide links to the websites of organisations with a particular focus on the issues related to sexuality and intimacy after breast cancer. The link will direct you to the organisation’s home page where you can search their site independently.

Australian Psychological Society (AUS)

The peak body representing Australian psychologists. Use this 'Find a Psychologist' database to find registered psychologists experienced in cancer care and sexuality and intimacy.

Society of Australian Sexologists (AUS)

The Society of Australian Sexologists is a multi-disciplinary professional group focusing on sexual health related matters to support the positive integration of sexuality into people’s lives. Click on 'Public' for more information and to search for an Accredited Sexologist.

Royal Women's Hospital Menopause Symptoms After Cancer Clinic (AUS)

Established in 2010, this is the only clinic in Victoria where menopause, mental health and cancer are treated together. Each woman’s program is tailored for her needs, with staff including gynaecologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrist, psychologist, sexual counsellors and specialist nurses. You will need to be referred by a doctor.

Look Good…Feel Better (AUS)

Body image and self-esteem may be affected by a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Look Good…Feel Better’s mission is to help improve the wellbeing and confidence of people undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer.

This list has links to key evidence-based information directly related to sexuality and intimacy after breast cancer. The list includes downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, PDFs and web pages. The information on these websites includes evidence-based information by organisations that may subscribe to reputable online health information standards such as HealthDirect partnership.

Counterpart webinar - Sexuality and intimacy after cancer - 2022 (AUS)

Dr Wendy Vanselow explains the support available to manage side effects and emotions after changes in your sexual function following a cancer diagnosis.

Counterpart webinar - Sexual Health and Wellbeing after Cancer - 2021 (AUS)

Dr Vicki Windholz, a psychosexual medicine specialist, looks at practical strategies to communicate well about sexuality, to build sexual confidence and enhance intimate relationships.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Sexual Wellbeing 2023 (AUS)

Web page with information and links to find out more, including a link to the booklet, 'Breast Cancer and Sexual Wellbeing', which can be downloaded or ordered in hard copy.

Cancer Council Victoria - 'Sexuality and intimacy' (AUS)

This page explains how cancer and treatment might affect sexuality, where to get help, and links to further information. Buttons at the bottom of the page link to the booklet 'Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer' listed below.

Cancer Council Australia - 'Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer' booklet 2022 (AUS)

This booklet (PDF: 687KB), aims to help you understand and deal with the ways cancer and its treatment may affect your sexuality. Find practical ways to adapt to physical and emotional changes you experience and access resources, medication, treatment and support. To order a hard copy, see the Cancer Council page above.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre - 'Being OK...being you' 2019 (AUS)

The content is based on interviews with young people who have had a cancer diagnosis and identify as LGBTIQ+, or are still working out their sexuality and gender identity. Includes terminology and hints on advocating for yourself.

Cancer Council NSW - Sex and cancer (AUS)

In the second episode of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and Professor Jane Usher talk about how cancer can impact on sex and intimacy.

Cancer Council NSW - 'Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer: A Self-Help Guide for People with Cancer and their Partner' (AUS)

A booklet produced by the Cancer Council of New South Wales in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney. This is a self-help guide that looks at what we mean by sex and intimacy and how it can be affected by a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. It includes information for both men and women, for people with and without partners and for people in same-sex relationships.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) - My Journey online tool (AUS)

Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on sex and intimacy under the Relationships section.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer - Sex and Intimacy 2015 (US)

This section of the Living Beyond Breast Cancer website can help you learn about the impact of breast cancer on body image and understand more about the sexual side effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. - Sexual health during and after breast cancer 2024 (US)

Information on intimacy in existing relationships, body image, libido and dating, during and after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Breast Cancer Now - 'Your body, intimacy and sex' 2019 (UK)

A booklet produced by Breast Cancer Now in the United Kingdom. It looks at issues that may affect your sexuality including pain and discomfort, fatigue, menopausal symptoms, body image and self-esteem.

American Cancer Society - Sex and the Adult Female With Cancer (US)

This section of the website provides information on cancer, sex and sexuality for women and their partners. It also provides support for speaking to your partner, your doctor, and the rest of the your cancer care team.

Counterpart webinar - Long-term Effects (AUS)

Dr Mary Dwyer and Natalie Goroncy discuss long-term side effects following breast or gynaecological cancer treatment at Counterpart. 2018

Ovarian Cancer Australia webinar - 'Love in the time of cancer: self-esteem, intimacy, sexuality after an ovarian cancer diagnosis' 2020 (AUS)

Although this webinar is aimed at women with ovarian cancer, it is also relevant to women diagnosed with other types of cancer. Dr Haryana Dhillon is joined by Nadia and Maureen who have each had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the past. They discuss challenges around relationships, body image and self esteem, and the impact these can have on quality of life following diagnosis. They emphasise that you are not alone, and help is available for you as an individual or as a couple. (Scroll down the Ovarian Cancer Australia webinar page to find this webinar.)

This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and DVDs that are not readily available online.

Intimacy After Breast Cancer, Dealing with Your Body, Relationships, and Sex (US)

This book discusses issues of self-esteem, body image, and sexuality by examining the emotions experienced by breast cancer survivors, including anxiety and fear of recurrence. It also looks at rediscovering your sexuality and addresses the issues that most often challenge both single and partnered women and presents suggestions for overcoming them.

Maisano, G.M., Square One Publishers, 2010

Woman, Cancer, Sex (US)

This book explores the changes that many women with cancer experience and offers practical and compassionate advice on how to handle these changes. Each chapter describes the experience of a woman with a particular kind of cancer and a variety of related problems, including loss of libido, physical pain, and struggles communicating with a partner.

Katz A, Hygeia Media, 2009

There are many personal stories, blogs and online forums in relation to sexuality and intimacy. The content of these pages reflects the personal experiences of the individuals who have shared them and does not necessarily constitute evidence-based information.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) - Let's Be Frank... (US)

Regular LBBC blogger Ronda Walker Weaver discusses sex and her journey with breast cancer.

LiveStrong - Female Sexual Health After Cancer (US)

Livestrong website features information on sexuality, including an online video of a woman talking about sexuality after cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer Council - Online Community (AUS)

Cancer Council’s online support network for people living with cancer. You can search for a range of topics including sex and intimacy after cancer.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Online networks (AUS)

An online network of Australia’s peak national consumer organisation for those affected by breast cancer. It includes discussions by individuals and groups of people in similar situations including discussions of peoples experiences of sex and intimacy during and after treatment for breast cancer.

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