Written for Uterus1 by Eliza Shirazi
Cancer is never an easy topic, but sex after cancer is even more difficult to discuss. Many patients experience sexual dysfunction after undergoing treatment. Although this may leave them feeling helpless and lost, there is an answer. At the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute there are millions of ways to navigate, learn, and find answers to an illness that seems indestructible at times. One unique program at Dana-Farber that has shown great results is the Sexual Health Program for Cancer Patients and Survivors.
Tips for sex after cancer:
Seek out some help.
Talk to your partner.
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed!
Many cancer treatments can affect ones sex life; both short and long term. This can be an embarrassing time, but one woman is driven to help those in need. A behavioral medicine psychologist, Dr. Sharon Bober is the director of the Sexual Health Program. Her focus is on how cancer and cancer treatments affects sexual function. Bober says, “In particular, sexuality is an experience that really is at the intersection of mind, body and relationship, and cancer treatment can impact all three of those elements. As the head of the Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program, I am able to help coordinate intervention that aims to address the problems across each of these domains.”
Dr. Bober not only aids people through an uncomfortable time, but also creates an environment that is just the contrary; comfortable and open. “Despite living in a culture that is saturated with graphic sexy images, we also live in a culture that does not encourage frank and open conversation about real sexual experience,” mentions Dr. Bober. Sex can no longer be brushed under the rug, but instead must be open for conversation. With her determined personality Dr. Bober is trying to make it clear that it is okay to talk about sex. In order for patients to recreate a normal sex life, it is vital for Dr. Bober that neither patients nor doctors are embarrassed to address sexual health. This leads to one of her greatest challenges, which is, “to keep getting the word out to patients as well as doctors and nurses that it is ok to bring up the topic of sex after cancer.”
Technology is also providing some hope, “As developments in targeted oncology treatment and advances in screening continue, I assume that this will also be helpful with regard to sexual function,” says Dr. Bober. With the assistance of improving technology, she anticipates women who have a high risk for ovarian cancer, and follow through with getting their ovaries removed, will have additional options other than undergoing surgical menopause to manage ovarian cancer risk. With these additional options, ones’ sexual life after cancer may soon have the potential to maintain fairly the same. With her high hopes, extreme motivation, and constant passion for what she does, Dr. Bober is giving one of the most imperative pieces of life back to patients, a normal sex life. Never wanting anyone to feel helpless, alone, or lost, Sharon Bober states, “Most importantly, I want to convey that there is effective help available!”
For further information please go to The Sexual Health Program or email [email protected].