Olivia Rowlatt

Sex and Relationship Therapist (COSRT Accredited)

Breast cancer relationships

Breast Cancer Relationships

Women discuss how breast cancer treatment has impacted their sexual health and function.

Breast cancer can have a significant impact on sexual relationship.

Breast cancer and sexuality

Breast cancer, and the treatment of breast cancer, can affect sexuality in different ways:

  1. Sexual function– Treatment may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and/ or other medication. These can significantly reduce desire to have sex. Sex may be less pleasurable than before. Frequent side effects include:
    • Fatigue
    • Menopausal symptoms
    • Vaginal dryness and irritaion
    • Discomfort after surgery
    • Lymphoedema
  2. Sexual identity- Breasts can play a role in identity. Changes to, or loss of a breast, or breasts, can change the way person feels about themselves. Each person is different. The meaning, impact and effect of different breast surgery will vary. This can be an important factor.
  3. Sexual relationship- Breast cancer and treatment of breast cancer can change the relationship dynamic. Some will not be in a relationship. Breast cancer, and it’s treatment, can bring additional concerns when starting a new relationship. Possible issues include:
    • Relationship roles change. One person caring for the other.
    • The partner without cancer may worry about hurting the other by being sexual with them.
    • Being sexual when one partner is “ill” may seem wrong to one or both partners.

It is important to talk about concerns about your sex life. Consider who you feel most comfortable talking to. Try speaking to your cancer nurse, GP, or oncologist.


If breast cancer is impacting on your relationship then counselling can be helpful. Call 07927 026 299, or email, for more information.

Support for breast cancer relationships!