Sexual health after breast cancer therapy: communication is not futile
Breast cancer survivors experience a range of physical, psychological, and relational sexual health issues that affect their quality of life. They may feel depression, anxiety, body image concerns, and relational issues with partners, stemming from diminished intimacy. Survivors list sexual health concerns among their supportive care needs, years after treatment. Patients may enter survivorship with insufficient information about the severity of potential sexual health problems.
According to the study “Perpetuating the cycle of silence: the intersection of uncertainty and sexual health communication among couples after breast cancer treatment” the uncertainty and the related issues are not experienced in isolation. Sexual health issues also reduce the partner’s quality of life.  The relational health can greatly affect the issue of sexual health. Couples have reported difficulty talking openly about sexual problems or seeking help from professionals.
Couple’s perceptions of quality sexual health communication have been associated with fewer depressive symptoms and greater sexual satisfaction. Uncertainty has been connected to topic avoidance and couple’s relational communication during and after primary treatment has been shown to support patient resilience.
To disrupt the cycle of silence, women and their partners need to understand that using appropriate strategies and methods should express their uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Several women and partners reported that they shared their narrative reflections with one another after participating in the study.
They indicated writing and sharing their thoughts helped them understand each other’s point of view and provided time to digest potentially upsetting information before talking with one another.
According to the study, sharing narrative inflections with one another is important for two reasons. (1) It underscores the value of direct verbal communication about this topic. (2) Writing could provide a less-threatening medium for couples to make sense of their thoughts and feelings, disclose difficult information, and process what their partners are sharing. Writing has been supported as a therapeutic tool when coping with traumatic experiences and taboo health contexts, including breast cancer.
Both women and men in this study reported a desire to see more resources created to help couples cope with sexual health changes. It is important for practitioners to be aware of the presence and nature of sexual health conversations for couples, to locate existing support resources for survivors, and to disseminate information that will empower women and their partners.
 Canzona MR, et al. Perpetuating the cycle of silence: the intersection of uncertainty and sexual health communication among couples after breast cancer treatment. Supportive care in Cancer (2019) 27:659-668.