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Sex After Cancer

Preserving Sex Life and Fertility for Cancer Patients

HOW CAN I BE PROACTIVE IN PRESERVING MY SEX LIFE OR FERTILITY?

If patients know about rehabilitation therapies and hormone monitoring, they can often begin to implement these right away — rather than suffering the ill effects in silence, and risk compounding the trouble.

As an overview, "We [as a profession] sort of sweep this under the rug only to have patients come back when they are having problems later, saying, 'I feel totally damaged, my partner is unhappy, we have no intimate contact, and now I don't know how to even talk about it, '" says, Sharon Bober, Ph.D., director of the sexual health program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "So it may have started with vaginal dryness, but now they have libido and communication problems, too."

If such a woman had been told about topical estrogens, or even simple drug store/retail lubricating products early on, such trouble could be prevented.

Gregory Broderick, M.D., a urologic surgeon at Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL, and past president of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, strongly advocates hormone monitoring once cancer treatment is over. Hormonal therapies can prevent urinary tract infections in women and restore libido in men and women, even in some women and men with breast cancer or prostate cancer. It is worth noting, though, that hormone therapies can be complicated and at times carry risks of their own.

As for fertility preservation, thanks to newsworthy advances and programs such as Fertile Hope, a national LIVESTRONG initiative (fertilehope.org), Bober says, "I think fertility preservation is on the agenda" of most doctors in oncology, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask.

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