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How Can Cancer Treatment Affect My Sexual Health?

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It absolutely can because that's a major impact on a woman's body, again associated with sexuality and femininity. The nice thing about breast surgery now with lumpectomies they don't lead to significant alteration of the breast when performed appropriately. And now also for women who require mastectomies the reconstruction, the greatest thing that I've seen in breast surgery over the past 10 years, is the ability to perform reconstruction after mastectomies in a fashion in which many times you can't even tell that a woman's had a mastectomy.

Some of our newer flat procedures actually some of my patients come in to my office and the reconstruction is so excellent and has such an excellent cosmetic result that there's so significant alteration of the body of course, however less so than in the past. Chemotherapy can have an impact on sexual health for younger women and that it can induce menopause and lack of estrogen, and all the sexual health issues that occur because of induction of a menopausal state.

Women who are undergoing chemotherapy actually many times don't feel great during each part of the month, and don't feel well, so that can obviously impact on a woman's sexuality. After the chemotherapy is finished however, those specific problems can be addressed in terms of if there's vaginal dryness due to menopausal issues or other menopausal issues which may occur and impact sexual health.

Radiation therapy can be a larger one that can be long term. Radiation therapy for endometrio cancer or cervical cancer certainly can cause scarring and constriction of the vagina, so it's very important that women address with the radiation oncologist or with their physicians how they can prevent significant scarring of the vagina moving forward.

And that can be a permanent long term problem that requires attention to it on a long term basis. Radiation therapy affects the blood vessels actually that supply an organ, so that's what we call small vessel disease can go on for a long period of time even after the radiation therapy is completed.

The side effects of radiation therapy can go on for a long period of time, so the vagina may become less pliable and more constricted, that can actually be corrected with dilators, and good use of dilators and prevented. So it's important for women to realize that again, use or loose it have intercourse on a regular basis, use dilators if you have pelvic radiation therapy.