RECLAIMING SEX & INTIMACY AFTER BREAST CANCER: PSYCHOSOCIAL CONSIDERATIONS Dr. Annette E. Brissett Clinical Psychologist Director, Houston Psychology Consultants October 11, 2014 Sisters Network Annual National African American Breast Cancer Conference A Simple Question SINGLE OR MARRIED? Cohabiting couples are 5 times more likely than singles to have SEX more frequently--at least 3 times per week!! OVERVIEW • TALKING ABOUT SEX: TABOOS • PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL BARRIERS TO SEX AND INTIMACY • BREAST CANCER & SEXUAL SELF ESTEEM/BODY IMAGE • COUPLES AND COMMON PSYCHOSEXUAL ISSUES • A MAN’S PERSPECTIVE • HOW DO COUPLES RECONNECT AFTER BREAST CANCER • THE NEW NORMAL: CREATIVE WAYS TO RECONNECT – BRINGING SEXY BACK!! • RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAINTAINING SEXUAL VITALITY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP • HELPFUL RESOURCES Let’s Talk about Sex • Taboos • Having a serious illness of any kind can affect your sex life • 200,000+ new cases of breast cancer reported annually in U.S. • Medical doctors/Oncologists concerned with saving your life • Breast cancer can affect intimacy in your relationship • National Cancer Institute study found 1:2 women report persistent sexual dysfunction after undergoing treatment Sexual Problems and Breast Cancer A National Cancer Institute Study found 50 % of breast cancer survivors report sexual concerns or problems after undergoing Breast Cancer treatment BARRIERS Effects of Treatment VS. Psychosocial Factors Barriers • EFFECTS OF TREATMENT • Medication • Vaginal dryness • Painful intercourse • Chemotherapy • Fatigue • Radiation • pain • Surgery • Pain • Functional deficits • Loss of sensational • Changes in body image Barriers • PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS • Emotional impact • anxiety • depressive symptoms • Breast within our culture • Endearing Characteristics • Sexuality • Sensuality • negative feelings Body image/Sense of Self SEXUAL SELF ESTEEM • In our culture, • Society puts emphasis on beauty and perfection • breasts often define who we are • If you do not feel attractive before Breast Cancer, you may struggle with low self esteem and body image issues after treatment. • A change in shape or loss of ones breast has major impact on selfesteem sense of self and body image • Having no breast or one breast or limited sensation affects selfimage and creates feelings of inadequacy and shame Perceived unattractiveness can affect ones sexual self esteem • How you view yourself as a sexual person serves to increase positive sexual self esteem PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL BARRIERS • I am unhappy with my looks • I miss my breast • I am not sure I can ever be naked in front of him again • I don’t want to look at my scar • I am alive but I feel sad and guilty • I want to be touched -breast cancer survivor A Man’s Perspective Sex, after Cancer-What’s That? • Most Spouses don’t know how to approach the subject of touch or sex after breast cancer and may be confused about intimacy and sex • Struggles exist between wanting to support wives and a desire to demonstrate love • Fear exists such as “will I harm my wife” or will I cause her added pain • Spouses may feel neglected or rejected and may temporarily lose their connection Common Issues For Couples • Depending on how strong or weak the relationship bond is prior to diagnosis • Partners fear they may be insensitive if desiring sexual intimacy • Survivor may be interested in touch but not sexual intimacy • When couples retreat sexually, touch may feel odd or different after a long sabbatical Sex is often low on the “Honey Do” list after Breast Cancer diagnosis or treatment Bringing Sexy Back! Redefine Intimacy RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAINTAINING SEXUAL VITALITY • Make sex and intimacy a priority • Consider sexual therapy – sensate focus • Increase touch – it helps with coping/stress reduction • Seek psychological support/relationship counseling • Keep lines of communication open and allow partner into the trenches • shift your focus away from breasts and identify other sexual areas of the body RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAINTAINING SEXUAL VITALITY • Use humor to diffuse stress • Don’s be afraid to ask for what you need • Relaxation skills • meditation, prayer, exercise • Love and accept your body SUMMARY • Breast Cancer affects your intimate relationship • Physical and emotional factors affect intimacy • Men and Women experience Effects of Breast Cancer differently • Embrace your body to increase self esteem • Communicate openly and honestly • Seek support HELPFUL RESOURCES Dr. Annette Brissett: www.houstonpsychologyconsultants.com Sisters Network www.sistersnetwork.org Breast Cancer Husband, by Marc Silver The center for intimacy after cancer therapy inc. www.renewintimacy.org Intimacy After Cancer: A woman’s Guide, by Kydd & Rowett Look Good Feel Better Program, Baylor Facial Plastic Surgery Center Your shoes 24 hr hotline / peer support www.networkofstrength.org Thank You!