In a new study, of 1,000 women treated for breast cancer within the last two years, 3 in 4 reported some form of sexual dysfunction like low sex drive.
The study, which was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, polled 1,684 Australian women within a year of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and annually thereafter for five years. Subjects were eliminated from the research if they were widows or without a partner, or if they were over 70. Of the 994 remaining respondents, 707 reported some form of a sexual problem. Of these women, over 80% said they had satisfactory sex lives before breast cancer.
Eight in ten of those reporting sexual dysfunction also appeared to be going through menopause, which has been directly linked to sexual problems. Other contributing factors are low body image and cancer drugs. Women on aromatase inhibitors were two and a half times more likely to have sexual issues if they also reported body image problems. Aromatase inhibitors stop cancer growth by lowering estrogen levels. Unfortunately, estrogen is a vital hormone in sexual health for women. These drugs have also been linked to vaginal dryness.
Being aware of these problems is the first step in combating them. Doctors have started recommending lubrication to cancer patients to counteract some of the negative effects of aromatase inhibitors. They also should warn patients about potential body image issues and be proactive about recommending professional therapy.