How Breast Cancer Affects Dating + Sex Life, According to a Survivor

“A relationship is work, but this is a different type of work.”

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Most women in their 20s are likely to have an active dating and sex life. It’s a time where they can have fun and discover more about themselves and others in the process. Roshni Kamta was afraid she wouldn’t have that luxury. Diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at 22, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to enjoy much of anything for the foreseeable future.

An Unexpected Light

When Kamta got the news, her mind immediately went to her boyfriend. She was in a long distance relationship, and didn’t want to subject her partner to the struggles she was going to endure. Roshni decided to give him an out. “You don’t have to do this with me. I understand I am not the only one going through cancer,” she says.

Nevertheless, Roshni’s boyfriend decided to stick with her through everything. His personality and character were a big help to her during chemo. “He’s levelheaded, and you need that because there were so many things going on that I didn’t know how to prioritize, and he was there to help me prioritize,” says Kamta.

How Breast Cancer Affects Dating

As Roshni’s treatment progressed, she found she was having difficulty connecting with her partner. She would become withdrawn and wouldn’t show affection towards him. “It’s not you, it’s the situation,” she would explain.

Elisa Port, MD, a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, finds these kinds of changes common in patients. “Breast cancer can have huge, significant downstream effects on overall psychological and sexual health and relationships,” she says.

Additionally, women who have mastectomies often lose sensation. Breast sensation and stimulation is considered to be a significant part of sexual health for a woman. The medication that breast cancer patients are put on can affect the libido and sex drive as well.

Finding What Works for You

While not for everyone, Kamta found it best for her to eliminate the possibility of sex alltogether. “It’s complicated because you’re going through treatment. You don’t look the way that you used to,” she says. “It’s a trying time for your body and your confidence.”

“It’s okay to be single or not if you don’t want to, if you want to go out and date. It is your right to disclose your information to that person you are dating if you want to. You don’t have to. Everything is on your terms,” she adds.

Learn more here about how breast cancer can affect your sex life and what to do about it.