CHAPPAQUA, N.Y.— Now that the majority of breast cancer cases are diagnosed early and women with the disease are able to live longer, more vibrant lives, concerns about sexual health and intimacy have become more of a priority during recovery.
This Thursday, Dr. Michael Krychman, an internationally renowned researcher, author, and lecturer in the field of sexual medicine, will visit Chappaqua Crossing at Northern Westchester Hospital to deliver a talk entitled “Breast Cancer: Sensuality, Sexuality, and Intimacy.”
Women in recovery from breast cancer can experience issues related to desire, pain, anorgasmia and overall sexual satisfaction, Krychman said. The impacts of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation on the sex lives of breast cancer patients and their partners cannot be discounted, he said.
“I think the important concept is that sexual health and wellness lead to overall health and wellness,” he said, in terms of improving partner relationships and bolstering physical and physiological well being.
In the talk sponsored by The Breast Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital and Support Connection, Krychman will discuss issues like post-cancer menopause, body image and sexual intimacy after cancer and regaining desire and a sense of femininity in the aftermath of the disease.
Krychman said breast cancer can be harmful to intimate relationships for many reasons, in part because the experience can damage a woman’s sense of sexual self-hood.
“We often see a lot of good relationships and marriages deteriorate in the face of cancer because there is a lack of communication,” he said. While most partners want to be supportive he (or she) may step back a bit, and the woman may internalize this as rejection, which in turn affects her sexual self-image.
The person also may have conflicting feelings about their partner’s illness: while most would like to be as supportive as possible, being faced with new challenges may make them feel angry, resentful or overwhelmed.
Additionally, women who have mastectomies or lumpectomies or experience scarring, asymmetry or fibrosis due to reconstructive surgery may suffer from self-esteem issues arising from the powerful sexual symbolism of the breast.
On Friday, Krychman will give a separate talk for health care professionals at Northern Westchester Hospital. “There’s a growing interest in this field at this hospital,” he said. “They’re looking at the cancer patient in totality.”
Thursday’s lecture will begin at 7 p.m. At 6:30 p.m. there will be a brief healthy cooking demonstration from a culinary institute-trained chef.