Breast Cancer Surgery and Intimacy
January 02, 2018
Submitted by Twin City Plastic Surgery
Many women are electing to have a preventative double mastectomy — having both breasts surgically removed by choice even though there was no sign of cancer. Actress Angelina Jolie is perhaps the most famous person to have this procedure, and she was very open about her choice. She had completed genetic testing and learned she carried the BRAC1 gene mutation and said the surgery would lower her chances of developing cancer to that of a normal woman. Her mother died at age 56 after battling breast cancer for almost 10 years, a difficult thing for Jolie and her family to watch.
Jolie has shared her story and thoughts in which she has also reflected on her feelings as a woman, saying, “I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” Jolie’s comments hit on what many women fear about breast surgeries due to cancer: How will this surgery impact my partner’s feelings about me, my body, and intimacy with me — especially at this difficult time?
A woman’s breasts are directly linked to her perceptions of herself as a woman, and to her partner’s physical attraction to her. Surgery on the breasts can have short-term and longer-term changes which affect appearance, discomfort, sensitivity, and emotions. Women and their partners have a lot of adjusting to do, and in the case of breast cancer, these physical changes are also coupled with fear, the compounding impact of simultaneous medical treatments or medication effects, and even possible depression or emotional changes.
Cancer.org, the American Cancer Society’s website, hits this topic head-on by saying it is common for anyone with cancer to need time to adjust to the way they feel about themselves and their appearance, as do their partners. “It’s not unusual for people with cancer to withdraw from others, including their partners, when they have changes in their body and self-image. Partners can help their loved one work through their feelings about all of these changes by offering their love, support, and understanding. People with cancer who have changes that affect their sexuality want to know their partners still care for them and are still attracted to them.”
Discussing breast surgeries due to cancer can be difficult, but many couples find attending appointments together, asking questions with one another present, and having the guidance of experienced professionals provides comfort and clarity during a painful time. We have walked many patients and their partners through their options during these difficult times and have found sometimes we can calm concerns the couple hasn’t yet figured out how to handle or address topics the couple might not be comfortable mentioning.
Mastectomies and lumpectomies are common surgical options for women who have been impacted by breast cancer. Going through an illness such as cancer coupled with a major surgery can be difficult, and many women find reconstructive plastic surgery allows them to feel empowered rather than victimized by this disease. Reconstructive surgery can give women a sense of restoration or normalcy in their private lives too. While our role is that of surgeon, we realize being a part of a woman’s life at a time like this is an opportunity to also provide guidance and support for her and her partner.
The board-certified plastic surgeons at Twin City Plastic Surgery bring you the latest procedures and newest technologies, along with the attentive care and comfort you deserve. For more information on any procedure, you may contact Dr. Laura Randolph — 309-664-6222, Dr. Chad Tattini — 309-664-1007 or Dr. Paige Holt — 309-664-4444 at Twin City Plastic Surgery or www.twincityplasticsurgery.com. Their office is located at 2502 E. Empire in Bloomington.
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