Qualitative Exploration of Sexual Health Among Diverse Breast Cancer Survivors

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Journal of Cancer Education

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Although the physical and emotional impact of surgical removal of partial or complete removal of the breast as well as effects of breast cancer treatment on the individual have been well documented, little research is available on sexuality and sexual health of breast cancer survivors in a relationship context. Sexual health concerns of breast cancer survivors remain an unmet need for many. The present study consisted of qualitative interviews with 135 racially diverse, female breast cancer survivors who completed treatment to better understand their perspectives on sexual health and management of sexual problems in their potential and existing relationships after breast cancer. Key thematic findings include that breast cancer survivors have to (1) adapt to the physical and emotional traumas of breast cancer surgery and treatment, (2) navigate complicated sexual communications with potential and existing partners, and (3) negotiate intimacy and closeness without sexual intercourse with existing partners. This study demonstrates the need for healthcare providers to discuss sexual health after breast cancer with all of their patients as it is a concern that faces single and partnered breast cancer survivors months and years after treatment.