Breast Cancer: Sexual Health

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Cancer-related menopause can cause physical and emotional changes, says psychologist Jeanne Carter.

Some breast cancer treatments can cause the early onset of menopausal symptoms — irregular periods, hot flashes, drying or thinning of vaginal tissues or the bladder, loss of interest in sex, insomnia and fatigue, and memory problems.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering's Barbara White Fishman Women's Health Center, women treated for breast cancer can receive counseling and treatment to help them manage the symptoms of menopause and the increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease that can occur after menopause. Physicians at the Women's Health Center care for both young women who are experiencing the early onset of menopause as a result of cancer therapy and older women who have reached menopause naturally, but whose choices for managing menopausal symptoms are limited because of their cancer histories.

Some women find that cancer therapy has affected their feelings about, and desire for, sex. If you are having difficulty maintaining intimacy with your partner or find that it is too difficult for you to enjoy sex because of fatigue, pain, or discomfort, counselors in Memorial Sloan Kettering's Female Sexual Medicine Program can help you discuss and address your concerns. They can also refer you to other doctors who treat any underlying problems that may be contributing to your concerns.

The Female Sexual Medicine Program provides services at the Barbara White Fishman's Women's Health Center at the Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion and at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center. For more information or an appointment, please call the Female Sexual Medicine Program at 646-888-5076.