ADVERTISEMENT

Finding Sensuality After Cancer

After breast cancer, clinical sexologist Sueann Mark, PhD, developed a program to help survivors regain their sexuality after cancer.

BY KATHY LATOUR
PUBLISHED THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2010
After her diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer, clinical sexologist Sueann Mark, PhD, began looking for information about cancer and its effects on sexuality. “I didn’t find much on the topic, and one of the nurses said that maybe that was what I was supposed to do.”

Mark developed STEPS (Sexual Transformation & Empowerment Program for Survivors) to help cancer patients and survivors open up to the possibility of sexuality after cancer and enhance the senses.  

Cancer complicates sexuality because there is a new body that is completely different, Mark says, adding that the top three issues she addresses in the cancer population are body image, vaginal dryness, and lack of libido. For women there is also fear, which inhibits orgasm.

Mark, who was diagnosed at age 34 in 2006, says the challenges in discussing sexual issues among survivors are similar to those in the general population “because we are socialized not to talk about sex and to not know what feels good.”

“We also live in a pleasure-phobic society,” Mark says. “So, what I focus on is developing healthy sensuality.”

Mark has created the ABCs of healthy sex, which she encourages cancer patients to adopt.

“ 'A' stands for adapt,” she says, explaining that cancer means adapting to a new body, a new emotional state and perhaps a new relationship. “Physically and psychologically, it means adapting to where you are now.”

“B” stands for broadening your definition of sex to include sensuality—opening up to all the senses, whether it be enjoying chocolate cake, art, music, movies, walking or any other activity that involves the senses. “Give each other a massage, take a bath, hold hands,” Mark recommends.

“C” stands for communicate. “Work sex into everyday conversation,” Mark says. “Hollywood gives us ways to talk about sex with all the scandals. Start creating a vocabulary in your relationship, and once you have the words, you can talk about it. Don’t talk in bed, but start talking,” she emphasizes. “‘What do you want? What do you like?’ Talk about it—with the understanding that it may change.”

She compared it to preparing food for your spouse. “If I am going to make a meal for you, I need to know if you have allergies and what you like and don’t like and how you like it presented: Do you like fast food or a five-course meal? Do you like spicy food? It’s a sensual connection.”

For those in treatment, Mark recommends maintaining as much sexual activity as you are comfortable with. “It’s like a hot water heater,” Mark explains. “It has a pilot light and you need to keep it lit. If you don’t, the water gets cold and it takes a long time to warm it up. If it stays lit, you’ll be ready for that hot shower.”   

ADVERTISEMENT
Related Articles
Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Tamoxifen as Chemoprevention in High-Risk Women
BY CHRISTINA IZZO
A new study has found that while the breast cancer prevention drug tamoxifen’s benefits outweigh its risks, the drug isn’t right for all women.
Success Fuels Researcher's Dreams of Helping Patients With Breast Cancer
Every day, breast cancer researcher Edith Perez sets her mind on finding better treatments for the disease and conducting research aimed at improving patients' lives.
Hope vs. Acceptance: The Metastatic Cancer See-Saw
Those of us living with metastatic cancer ride a see-saw between hope and acceptance.
Ovarian Suppression Emerges as Option for Younger, Premenopausal Breast Cancer Patients
BY JASON M. BRODERICK
Women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who remained premenopausal after receiving chemotherapy had a lower risk of disease recurrence when adding ovarian suppression to adjuvant Aromasin, according to results from the phase 3 SOFT trial.
Several Cancer Therapies Up for FDA Review in 2015
BY ANITA T. SHAFFER
The Food and Drug Administration’s calendar for making decisions on new cancer drugs and indications is taking shape for 2015, and the clock is ticking on at least 13 applications for novel agents and new therapeutic settings for existing drugs.
Related Videos
Breast Oncologist Beth Overmoyer Explains Results of Ovarian Suppression
Beth Overmoyer, a breast oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, speaks on the results of the SOFT trial and its potential impact on young women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.
SABCS: Debu Tripathy Discusses Hormonal Therapy Advances in Breast Cancer
Debu Tripathy reports on recent studies involving hormone therapy in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
Follow Up Study Data Draws Attention to Benefit, Side Effects of Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer
Debu Tripathy,editor-in-chief of CURE magazine, explains the importance of chemotherapy studies presented at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, including new data on the impact of side effects.
Recent Publications
  • photo
    photo
    photo
    photo
    photo
  • photo
    photo
    photo
    photo
    photo
ADVERTISEMENT
$auto_registration$